Faced with excruciating pain from a deteriorating spine, Gail found herself going from the emergency room to the operating room, and then to a nursing home for therapy. “I didn’t have any idea what life was going to be like and I was still in a wheelchair. The nursing home was trying to get me into apartment buildings where I would have been on my own and I said, ‘I can’t.’ Besides dealing with my recovery, I have severe PTSD. I couldn’t be isolated. I would not have done well. I would have debilitated and I said no. But I was lucky because I ended up at Towers Assisted Living, and I found my new life.”
Gail mentioned her concerns to a staffer at the nursing home, who called Cathy Breninghouse, the Marketing Director at St. Augustine Towers. “Cathy came to see me the next day and within two weeks I was here. I really thought my life was over. I was 57 when this happened, and I turned 58 on the day I moved into the Towers.”
Fortunately, Gail adjusted quickly and by October she couldn’t help but notice there were no seasonal decorations. “I asked, ‘are there any decorations?’ and was told there were plenty. Once I discovered where they were, I started pulling things out and by Halloween, the whole sixth floor was decorated. Well, then they just gave me free reign of it because I was able to do it. So now, every holiday gets its chance to show off.”
The following spring, Gail’s creativity spread to the outdoors when she started talking about doing some urban gardening and planting flowers and vegetables in the cement boxes outside. “I said ‘let me show you what I can do’ and I started out small, but now every box is filled. We have flowers on the patio that never had flowers. The front entrance on Detroit brings life, not only to us, but the whole neighborhood. The kids, the moms, the homeless people, everybody who walks by is getting some comfort out of it.” Gail started the Towers Garden Club, which has a roster of anywhere from 6-12 residents involved in planting, weeding and harvesting the vegetables.
Gail credits the culture at St. Augustine Towers for giving her a place to call home. “There’s so much friendliness here and genuine care from other people. I don’t have family nearby and this is a family – people check on me and I check on them. We have books and movies and painting. There are residents painting beautiful watercolors right now and I don’t think people ever knew they could do watercolors. If you say you want to learn something, the staff is going to give you the resources to learn it. That’s a big thing, keeping people alive and vibrant. Life doesn’t have to be over, no matter where you are. There’s so many other things you can do with your life if you look…and this is a good place to look.”
The St. Augustine Health Campus is located on Detroit Avenue in Cleveland, just west of the Gordon Square Arts District.