FRIDLEY, Minn. – (April 19, 2018) – Rita Felling is a single mother. She shares her Fridley home with her children.
“I have three sons. My two youngest have a one hundred percent fatal muscle wasting disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy,” said Rita Felling.
Rita has seen several cases of Duchenne through her life, but didn’t expect it to reach her children.
“I had three brothers with this disease. I grew up being told I was not a carrier. My first son was born, and we had him tested right away. He didn’t have it, so we hung on to the fact that I’m probably not a carrier,” said Rita.
Then Cody was born.
“He didn’t roll over the way he was supposed to,” said Rita. “Everything that he was supposed to do was delayed.”
He was officially diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at eighteen months old. Josiah was born a few years later. He also has Duchenne.
“Young men who have this disease don’t live past their late twenties. My sons are in their early twenties, and are entering the last phase of the disease,” said Rita.
The Fellings have medical aides that help with basic case for Cody and Josiah, but Rita was a parent who wanted more for her boys. While searching for opportunities that might be right for them, she found Tamarisk.
“What Tamarisk does, we offer non-medical companionship to those in the end stages of a terminal illness,” said Kathy Dahl, the director of development at Tamarisk.
Through Tamarisk, the Fellings were paired with volunteer Beverly Anderson. Beverly has been a Tamarisk volunteer for ten years. She visits three homes once a week, simply to be a friend.
“She has enriched my sons’ lives in so many ways,” said Rita. “She’s been a grandma, a grandma that we didn’t have.”
While spending time with the Fellings, Beverly will often build Legos or solve puzzle with Cody and Josiah. Legos and puzzles are a few of the things they have the strength to do. Bev is happy to take part in any activity that makes them happy.
In other homes, volunteers do a variety of things.
“It really will vary, depending on the family’s needs, or the companion’s needs,” said Dahl. “Sometimes that volunteer is there solely for the family, and they just need support, they need someone to talk to.”
During Beverly’s visits, Rita has the time to catch up on medical paperwork, or mow the lawn, or sometimes just take a nap, knowing that her children are cared for and loved.
“We offer all of these services free to everyone,” said Dahl. “We truly believe that no one should walk alone at this time in life – regardless of your income, where you live, what your circumstances are – we just want to meet you where you are.”