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Happy at home: Davis relies on home health care

Nellie Davis of Round Lake is able to remain in her home thanks to home health care provided by Sanford Worthington Medical Center. (Tim Middagh / Daily Globe)

ROUND LAKE — At 85, Nellie Davis is able to remain in the same house she and her husband established as their home in 1965 — but only because of the assistance she receives from Sanford home health care nurses.

“I’ve gotten home health care services for seven years,” shared Davis, an exuberant and cheerful person despite her numerous health problems.

“I’ve got the best nurse in the world.”

Davis’ praise for her primary home health care nurse, Missy Gruis, knows no bounds.

And why not? Before Davis required Gruis’ services, Gruis cared for Davis’ husband, Joe, who died five years ago at the age of 91.

“Missy was my husband’s nurse before she was mine,” explained Davis. “The other nurses are also very good, but Missy is my favorite and she knows it.

“The day before Joe died he told me, ‘Don’t give up Missy.’”

By all accounts, Gruis and the other home health care nurses who occasionally visit Davis are compassionate, efficient, skillful and patient.

“I’m diabetic, so she has to draw my blood three or four times a month and take it to the hospital for analysis,” said Davis. “I’m lucky she can do it for me right here at home.

“And I also have a heart problem, so she takes my blood pressure, listens to my heart rate and checks me all over; my feet swell up real bad from fluid build-up at times, so she makes sure there aren’t sores on my feet or body. Diabetic sores are hard to heal.”

Because Davis is mostly homebound, she relies on home health care nurses to supplement her care in between occasional medical appointments.

“I usually just get out to go to the doctor’s office,” said Davis. “I have to use a walker, and I need help getting around.”

Fortunately, in addition to the home health nurses, Davis has one daughter who lives across the street from her, and two others not far away (Reading and Rushmore).

“It would be hard — extremely hard — for me to stay on my own without home health care, but I’m more satisfied here, and if I had to go to a nursing home or assisted living, it would feel like I’d left my husband behind,” said Davis.

“We’d been married 52 years when he died, and staying in my house keeps me going.”

Spina bifida in Davis’ back also limits her mobility, and she is frequently shaky.

“I can’t stand up for very long at a time; it’s not too pleasant,” she admitted.

But with the support of her daughters, and the regular care Gruis provides, Davis is able to remain independent.

Davis and her husband grew up in Mountain Home, Ark., a small town in the southern Ozarks located in northern Arkansas. Joe’s employment eventually pulled them northward, first to the Kansas City, Mo., area and later to Round Lake.

“Joe worked for Armour, and he got 24 hours’ notice to be up in Worthington,” she revealed. “We had three kids by then, and boy, was that a job to pack everything, get a U-Haul and move up here.

“My baby was born in Lakefield, and I told the doctor I wasn’t going to move anymore because our first was born in Arkansas, our second in Kansas City, Mo., our third in Kansas City, Kan., and our youngest in Lakefield,” she listed.

“I said, ‘Every time I cross a state line it happens, so I’m never moving again,’” she said, laughing. “He thought I was crazy.”

While Joe worked at Armour (now JBS) for over 30 years, Davis kept busy with their four children and operated a home day care.

“I never had much free time, between my kids and everyone else’s,” she joked.

Health crises are nothing new to Davis, who sadly lost her son to brain cancer 24 years ago.

“He was a twin, but we lost his twin at birth,” she revealed. “He was in the hospital for 61 days, and I stayed there with him for 59 nights, and every day.

“I tried my best to keep him alive, but it wasn’t to be.”

Gruis was one of the nurses who helped Davis’ son during his illness, something Davis has never forgotten.

“She’s been wonderful to me,” Davis credited.

Davis also survived a personal battle with breast cancer, so she’s not inclined to let her current health issues bring her down.

“I told the nurse I was going to live to be 100 so I could give her a hard time, and she said, ‘I hope you can,’” Davis chuckled. “I’m not hard to get along with.”

Davis’ supervising physician, Dr. Kevin Ree, encourages her to move as much as possible.

“I’m supposed to exercise and walk, but if it’s too cold they don’t want me out there,” Davis noted. “Dr. Ree gets pretty bossy about it; ‘Stay out of the cold weather, stay out of the rain and snow,’ he says.”

Davis enjoys attending church at Round Lake Presbyterian when possible, but it’s easier for her to engage in quiet activities like reading.

“I read more now than I ever did,” she said. “My daughter gets me a stack of books from the library — all different kinds, but not murder mysteries because there’s enough of that on TV.”

It’s easier to concentrate on fictional stories when Davis has the reassurance of home health care services in her personal plot line.

“Home health care helps me live my life, and they’re excellent to me,” she affirmed.

A positive outlook, in spite of her physical limitations, also contributes to Davis’ wellbeing.

Professed Davis, “I try to see the good in everything, and I try to love my neighbors.”

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