Meet Jerry & Sandra Heflin
We’d like to introduce you to two of the nicest people you will ever meet. Their story is one of love, patience, perseverance and a couple miracles thrown in for good measure.
Jerry was born in Avoca, Iowa. Through a terrible tragedy he lost his parents at the young age of 6. Thankfully, he was adopted by his cousins who lived in Chicago, Illinois.
Sandy was born in Chicago, Illinois and lived there until she was 10 years old when her family moved to Skokie. As luck would have it, Jerry also moved to Skokie when he was 14 years old. They sort of knew each other in high school but really didn’t start dating until Jerry was a sophomore in college and Sandra was a senior in high school. They were set up on a date by one of Sandra’s best friends and she said, “and that was the beginning of the end, Jerry immediately fell in love.” Sandra took a bit longer because she was younger and not so sure at that age.
Jerry left college to serve in the Army. He went to language school in California, which was a high honor. He came back and Jerry and Sandra got married on July 23, 1955. Shortly after the newlyweds left the wedding for their three week honeymoon, Sandra’s brother went to the hospital by ambulance and was diagnosed with Polio; it was thought he wouldn’t survive. When the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon they discovered what had happened and immediately went to the hospital where they got their first miracle. The priest had come to visit and when he left, the doctor told his family that her brother’s condition had turned around. He spent quite a while in an iron lung, which most people don’t survive. He was also told he probably wouldn’t walk again, but he went on to walk, run and play tennis. He really is a living miracle.
Jerry then spent a year and a half in Korea and Sandra continued living at home with her parents. After the Army, Jerry went back to college and started his career in sales and management. Sandra worked at a variety of jobs over the years. College just wasn’t in the cards for Sandra. Every time she thought about attending, Jerry would get a new job and they would move. Sandra is now in her 17th home in seven different states, and that doesn’t count the rentals!
At age 60, Sandra started noticing some changes in Jerry and for a while, they didn’t know what was wrong. His personality started changing and then he’d forget his telephone number or the name of their street. There were many doctor and psychiatrist visits with tests. Eventually they decided that Jerry had Alzheimer’s. Sandra cared for Jerry at home for many years, occasionally using Adult Day Care when she wanted to go out and do things on her own. It was mid-August 2010 when Jerry moved into Good Shepherd Lutheran Home. At that time, the doctors told Sandra that he had maybe a year to live. This is the second miracle. Jerry is still with us today! Sandra attributes this to the great care he receives at Good Shepherd and to her continuous love and devotion. Sandra visits each week on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and quite a bit of the time on the other days of the week.
Her advice to caregivers is simple. Stay busy, have a full life outside of caregiving, educate yourself so you understand what is happening and use the resources and support in your community. Sandra stays active with her bridge and exercise groups, reading a lot of books, and staying connected with her many friends who provide back-up help and support to her. She also has a devoted daughter who lives in town and they have family dinner nights each week with all the kids.
We are proud to have the Heflin’s as part of our Good Shepherd family!