Read about the writer, Ellie David.
Finding Friends at Every Turn
Ann Carson died July 12, 2010, at Bailey-Boushay House.
Ann Carson remembered everyone she'd ever met. If only she knew how many people at Bailey-Boushay House remember her.
"She became famous," says her older sister, Nancy Carson. "I think the last year of her life may have been her happiest."
As a person with Down syndrome, Ann lived in a group home and worked in a sheltered workshop for more than 30 years. The move to Bailey-Boushay at age 56 up-ended her universe.
"Ann went from being terrified on entry to absolutely being the queen of Bailey-Boushay by the time she died, and all points in between," Nancy says. "It was quite a trajectory."
Ann didn't know she was sick with bile duct cancer. She thought she was living in a strange hotel.
She took an instant dislike to some staff (running away from a large security guard) and showed a deep distrust of others (telling nurses to leave pills on the counter and go away).
But Tim, her neighbor down the hall, hit just the right note on her first night. He brought her a DVD of "The Wizard of Oz." "She watched it nearly every night," reports Nancy.
Slowly Ann's trust and comfort level grew. She felt safe and at home. And she really started enjoying herself.
Her passions were many. She wore Tinkerbell nightshirts and treasured a door sign with Tink's image (downloaded by her staff pal Sherry). She adored Hannah Montana — on TV, on CDs, and on videos.
She eagerly completed coloring projects with artist-in-residence Ross, visited the fish tanks, and loved the responsibility of fetching a soda from the vending machine.
She looked forward to chats with her social worker Chrissy and had crushes on several nurses. Food was another big pleasure for her.
She was around people day and night. She loved and adopted staff and volunteers. And other patients looked out for her.
After a hospital stay, Ann told Nancy, "I want to go back to my apartment and my staff."
On her return, Ann sought people out to apologize for her earlier rudeness. When she hugged the security guard and said she was sorry for hurting his feelings, Nancy says, "we all cried."
Looking back on Ann's adult years, Nancy now believes: "My sister's life was much harder than I wanted to realize. She was more lonely, and had more things to deal with."
Ann's usual reply to "How are you?" was "Fine." At the end that changed to: "Not well. I think I have the flu.
Nancy, who lives in Virginia, was not with Ann when she died. "I always felt safe leaving her," she says.
"Most people don't have 40 friends around when they're dying. Bailey-Boushay was a godsend for us, because Ann ended up in a place where she was loved."