When your husband is only 58, full of laughter, and lead singer in a band, you don’t expect to go to the doctor because you suspect he may have vertigo, only to be told that he has Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a disease for which there is no cure.

A diagnosis, followed by a funeral six weeks later. To say that Marlene Lynch was unprepared for this shock doesn’t begin to tell the story.

Dr. Al-Yousif, an Okotoks physician who treated Michael until his death, referred Marlene to Kim Regular, a CRPCN Registered Nurse, who has knowledge of the resources that would be available during this difficult time.

“I’m trying to find a way to cope with life, and Kim has been a big help. Without her, I’d be struggling far worse. She pointed me in directions that I never even knew about, to people I’d have never had access to. I’ve never used ‘the system’ in my whole life, so I had no idea what to do,” says Marlene.

“My husband was the kind of person who would say, ‘Don’t be stupid – ask for help if you need it.’ So luckily, I learned that from him.”

“In the month leading up to his death, I looked after him at home, but because we didn’t have insurance, I still had to earn, so Michael’s family - especially his brothers - stepped in, and I’m so grateful his family could be there for both of us during such a hard time.”

“I also want to acknowledge the Foothills Country Hospice, where Michael spent his last week and a half. They were so caring, and it was such a peaceful place for him to spend his last days.”

In the weeks following Michael’s death, Marlene was very immersed in her grief, but concerned about finances, so after a lengthy discussion, Kim sent her to the Okotoks Wellness Centre. From there, they gave her a referral to Saint Vincent de Paul Church, who paid some bills, which alleviated Marlene’s stress. She hadn’t felt she could grieve when she was so preoccupied with her finances.

Kim also connected her with Sherri Mullen, the Okotoks Family Resource Centre Coordinator, for credit counselling, and the Okotoks Food Bank. Another referral was to Vi Sharpe, a grief counsellor, who Marlene says has “been a big help.”

Kim saw that Marlene’s blood pressure was high, and knew that she wasn’t sleeping well, so she started providing tips on how to ‘control the controllables’ in Marlene’s life. Kim referred Marlene to Dr. Al-Yousif who gave her a sleep aid, and hypertensive medication for her blood pressure. Kim also reinforced the importance of maintaining a social network to avoid isolation.

“Kim’s shown me the things I need to do to help myself. She’s teaching me healthy eating and how to read labels, how to manage my grief, she encourages me to exercise, and tells me to make sure I get out and see people. If it wasn’t for her taking the time to look after me, I don’t know where I’d be right now. She’s like my own personal support group.”

“I just can’t say enough about Kim. I think every doctor should have a Kim – someone who can give that special attention when they need it.”

“Kim has the patience, and she’s always reaching out to me. It lets me feel that I have an avenue to get help.”

  Rest in peace, Michael