Posted on: September 5, 2017 | Posted by: Andy Turner
He sees himself in the mirror and stares.
He touches the mirror.
He makes a funny face.
He waves at the mirror.
THE WHOLE WORLD OUT THERE
For 17 years, Bill Jakovac couldn’t see. Large cataracts in his eyes obscured his vision so badly he couldn’t see a person standing right in front of him.
So frequently Bill just sat silently.
Enter Veronica Perez. A former nurse for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, she decided to become a host home provider for Bethesda Lutheran Communities at the urging of her brother, who also is a provider for the organization. Since Bill Jakovac moved in with Veronica’s family in February 2014, the impact has been immense.
Most significantly, Veronica pushed for Bill to have surgery to remove the cataracts.
“I insisted,” she says. “We took him to the doctor, and I thought even though Bill was older, he still had life in him. Just because he’s older doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have the option for surgery. He should see the whole world out there.”
Doctors were not sure the surgery would be successful, but Bill and his new caregivers pushed ahead with guarded optimism.
“I didn’t know who it would hurt more — me or Bill — if surgery wasn’t successful. It was a scary decision,” Veronica says.
Bill had separate surgeries for each eye requiring months of recovery. During his recovery, Bill wore eye patches for protection. It took nearly a year for the long process to play out, for the worry to subside, and hard-earned happiness to appear out of the darkness.
When Bill first came to live with them, he always wore sunglasses and wanted his blinds kept closed.
He rarely tried to move himself in his wheelchair because he could not see where he was going. He was unable to feed himself because he could not see his food or utensils.
No longer, Veronica says.
“Bill was so happy the first time he could see,” she says. “He saw colors, the TV and people’s faces. The expression on his face was priceless.”
He could see Veronica’s husband, Sergio, who Bill was delighted to learn has a mustache. He puts his pointer finger over his top lip to indicate “Sergio.”
He could see Snookie, Veronica’s mini-Yorkie who likes to sit in Bill’s lap. He could only sense her by touch or smell before.
He could see the people at his day program, where he was now confident enough to move himself around the table to say “hello” to each one of them and put voices to faces.
Now able to see his food and utensils, his independence grew because he needs less assistance with eating.
“He’s so alive,” she says. “He is just so happy to see the world again. It is like everything is new to him again.”
The family bond is apparent when they all go bowling, one of Bill’s new favorite activities. Delisa made posters of support and tapes them up by the lane. They cheer Bill and each other on throughout their game. She bounces around, laughs and lets high-fives fly after spares and near strikes.
Wearing his Colorado Avalanche hat backward and sunglasses – bright lights can still bother him – Bill uses a bowling ramp, and, as always, Veronica is by his side to help him set up the bowling ball and offer encouragement.
“Bill Banana” bowls a 99 and comes out on top over “Delisa Cool.”
On the way out, Bill plays a game of air hockey with Delisa, his contagious smile rarely subsiding.
WE ALL DO
Bill has found a true home with Veronica and her family, who moved from a farm in Greely, Colorado, to Fort Collins three years ago so they could serve as his host home provider.
But Veronica says it’s Bill who deserves thanks for enhancing her family’s lives immeasurably.
“I feel like we are blessed to have Bill versus Bill blessed with us,” she says. “I wouldn’t let him go for anything in the world.”
She explains that Bill has brought a lot of joy into their home.
“It was only my husband, my daughter and myself,” Veronica says. “It was just three of us in the beginning, and it wasn’t lonely, but with Bill we have fun. My daughter has someone to talk to, someone she plays with. He’s older, but she doesn’t mind that. She loves Bill – we all do.”
Perhaps the biggest change in the family has been with Sergio, Veronica says. Before Bill, he tended to be more introverted, she says, and often spent more time with his horses than other humans.
Bill reminds Sergio of his father, who passed away a few years ago. They bonded quickly, Veronica says.
“Bill looks like his dad,” Veronica says. “Bill has a big heart like his dad.”
Since Bill entered their life, Sergio has been more willing to show his emotions. In fact, his whole outlook has changed, both Veronica and Delisa say.
Last Halloween, for example, he bought about 70 Halloween costumes for people who couldn’t afford them and gave them out at his home. He now donates gift cards on Thanksgiving and Christmas to charity.
Not too long ago, when Bill was sick, Sergio told Veronica he would stay with Bill even though he wasn’t receiving payment as a host home provider. “With Bill to the end,” Sergio told Veronica.
“Bill brings us all together,” Veronica says. “It just means so much, and we’re so grateful.”
WHAT TOOK SO LONG
Veronica says she thanks Bethesda for bringing Bill into her family’s life.
“They gave us an opportunity to bond by matching us with Bill,” she says.
She wonders why she took so long to become a host home provider.
“If you love caring for people. If you have a good heart. If you want to help an individual who needs love,” she says. “Do it – there are no regrets in this.”
No regrets at all, Veronica says, even when she finds fingerprints all over the large mirror in her living room.
Veronica Perez and her family, as well as Bill, have transformed lives. So do you, our donors. It is our donors who give Bethesda the ability to make vital connections that ensure the people we support live the best life possible.
The only way we can continue these activities is with your financial support. Make a gift online at BethesdaLutheranCommunities.org/Donate.
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