In his public persona as “Bob the DJ,” the Barrington resident has served as the entertainment at many special events that raise funds for patients who cannot afford care or for pediatric support services, including this year’s Decades Dance in April.
For years, Bob has enjoyed getting to know JourneyCare supporters and watching them mix their generosity with some fun.
“I especially love the Decades Dance, since it’s a very fun night and the JourneyCare Foundation team does a great job with details that make it really fun and authentic-feeling, like the candy table, a great band and even the decorations,” Bob says. “The younger crowd enjoys it just as much as everyone who has been involved for years.”
But last July, Bob’s relationship with JourneyCare became more critical. It was France’s Bastille Day, July 14, when his mother, Bertha was celebrating the holiday of her birth country with his twin brothers. Though she already was living with diabetes and slight dementia, her children thought she was otherwise healthy.
That day, Bertha suffered a stroke. Doctors learned the stroke occurred in her brain stem, leaving her without function on her left side and unable to speak.
To help Bertha recover, Bob and his five siblings decided their mother should live at Symphony in Buffalo Grove, a JourneyCare partner agency, where she could receive the full-time care she needed. With the help of their rehabilitation staff, she was quickly able to speak again and regained considerable muscular movement.
Yet the effects of the stroke enhanced Bertha’s dementia dramatically and, less than six months later, her health declined once more. Bob knew it was time for hospice care.
“Thanks to all of my time serving JourneyCare, I knew who to call and the nurse was very helpful in giving me the information I needed to talk to my siblings,” Bob said. “They struggled in coming to terms with my mom’s state of health and didn’t want to consider that it was possible for her life to end.”
“It was tough for me,” he added. “Even though I knew it was the right thing to do and hospice would be a wonderful experience for us. But for those who don’t have the understanding of how it can help, it can be a challenge to convince them of the benefits and you have to reach out and get the facts.”
Bertha remained among the familiar surroundings of Symphony as her JourneyCare team provided her plan of care. Because she was often experiencing panic attacks and agitation, her team decided she would benefit from a music vigil in her final days.
JourneyCare Music-Thanatologists Margaret Pasquesi and Tony Pederson both performed the vigil at her bedside, using harp and voice to soothe Bertha’s symptoms. Bob said the results were dramatic.
“It didn’t just soothe her, it soothed us,” he recalled. “When someone you love is in pain, and the pain has been taken away, it is such a profound relief. That stress level goes way down, even for the members of my family who weren’t present. Because when they did arrive, they came into a calm scenario and felt relief.”
Bertha died on January 24. Though the loss wrenched the Roig family, Bob said hospice managed his mother’s illness, while saving him and his siblings from around-the-clock stress and anxiety.
“Hospice embodies both form and function and there’s a certain beauty to it,” Bob says. “It eases the pain and lets you have comfort in life, allowing you to enjoy things while you still have them. In our situation, it allowed mom to go back to being mom.”