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Touch of an ‘angel’

Gil Ferreira says he welcomes “an angel” into his Saint Charles home every two weeks.

The visitor helps take away some of the pain that results from muscle deterioration, a common symptom of the ALS Gil has lived with for more than two years.

JourneyCare Massage Therapist Dana Conlon and patient Gil Ferreira

And when Gil’s angel tiptoes out, often he has fallen sound asleep and awakes poised to better confront his illness in the weeks ahead.

Though Dana Conlon will tell you she is not an angel from the heavens, the JourneyCare Massage Therapist does say her discipline can have a marvelous impact in managing Gil’s condition.

“As patients with ALS get weaker, it causes problems like hip and neck pain. So I work to get to know our patients and what works to alleviate symptoms for their particular condition,” Conlon says. “Sometimes it’s massage or passive stretch. Or other times it’s myofascial release or trigger point therapy. It is always based on what each patient needs and communication is very important.”

Gil jokes that he wishes there were three more Danas on his care team. But his wife, Bea, says each staff member from JourneyCare who works with their family brings an important expertise.

Bea credits Certified Nursing Assistant Vanessa Canales for tending to both Gil’s personal care and aiding Registered Nurse Nancy Nickels, who provides his clinical care. She is also grateful for Social Worker Theresa Ewing, who helps the Ferreiras navigate their emotional ups and downs, along with chaplain Steven Taylor, who brings comfort to the deeply religious Catholic family.

My husband is being cared for by top-notch people and his care is managed in every way,” Bea says.

She adds that hospice is important for any patient facing a serious illness like Gil’s, not only because his pain is managed with expertise, but because Bea feels a sense of control over his care.

“Gil is suffering in ways no one can realize, and I know the best thing you can do is surround yourself with experts who care. Ultimately, it has helped both of us.”

Dana’s massage therapy, says Bea, pulls all of Gil’s care together by providing both physical and mental alleviation of his symptoms. Bea says Dana’s work often does more than medicine can.

“He is present, alert and able to live life without just existing,” she says. “Ultimately, JourneyCare is like an extended family and they really address the human person. If you want your loved one to have their best journey, for as long as they are here, hospice is the answer.”


– By Elisabeth Mistretta, JourneyCare Content Specialist
Originally published in Together to Care, Issue 3, 2017