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grandmother in hospice and granddaughter embracing one another
Blog: Stories and Insight

Easing the Strain of Serious Illness through Palliative Care

To celebrate 40 years of caring for our community, Samaritan is sharing stories and news from the past, and telling new stories that embrace the present and inspire the future. Samaritan is proud of its history and commitment to the community. We hope this look back — and look forward — inspires you to connect with your loved ones, reflect on your legacy, and know Samaritan is here for you. 

This story originally appeared in Samaritan’s 2010 annual report.

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With a prescription for oxygen and medication to ease his wracking cough, Bob Dambrowski finds the energy to keep on babysitting his precious granddaughters and go fishing with his buddies.

For many, life is best when they are escaping the daily grind. But for others, having the stamina for “business-as-usual” makes each day a gift.

Bob Dambrowski of Clementon is no stranger to hard work and an active lifestyle. He’s an avid fisherman who enjoys fishing trips with his brother and childhood buddies. Until his retirement at age 62, he worked at a physically demanding warehouse receiving job. “Bob probably would have worked longer,” said Cheryl, his wife of 44 years, “but shortness of breath brought on by his emphysema just made the job too tough to continue.”

After his retirement, Bob’s doctors diagnosed a more serious problem: Cancer of the right lung. “It’s a direct result of my smoking,” he said ruefully, “even though I quit 23 years ago.” Bob was not a candidate for surgery and weight loss after radiation taxed his energy even further.

Photo: Robert (Bob) Dambrowski (left) enjoys a Palliative Care home visit with Dr. Stephen Goldfine, Samaritan’s Chief Medical Officer and head of the Palliative Medical Partners physician practice, and Nurse Practitioner Jeannette Kates. Bob’s granddaughters Sydney, 3, (left) and Julianna, 6, work on a puzzle while “Poppy” talks.

“I basically became a couch potato,” said Bob, “Walking was hard and the 10 steps to my bedroom even harder. I would tire out just washing my lunch dishes at the kitchen sink.” Fishing trips became too taxing as well as another cherished activity: babysitting granddaughters Julianna, 6, and Sydney, 3. “Bob had babysat one or both girls every Friday since Julianna was born,” said Cheryl.

Bob’s cough worsened. “I couldn’t stop. It almost felt like a seizure,” he said. So Cheryl sought advice from Samaritan’s Palliative Medical Partners practice on how to manage Bob’s symptoms at home in cooperation with his family physician and lung specialist. “Bob was so weak that we wanted to avoid another hospitalization,” she said. Cheryl said, “The practice sent Nurse Practitioner Jeannette Kates to evaluate Bob. She prescribed medicine to manage his cough. She recommended a shake recipe to stabilize Bob’s weight and give him more energy. And she qualified Bob for home oxygen use – “which has made

a huge difference!” Bob said, “Jeannette had me walk up and down the stairs. My levels dropped significantly and I qualified. She shared the results with my pulmonologist who got oxygen delivered the next day!”

Now, Bob has resumed “runs to WaWa” and twice-weekly fishing trips. He’s off the couch, feeling more productive at home; and the little girls who “mean everything to me” still enjoy babysitting with their “Poppy.”

That means the world to Bob, Cheryl and their family. She said, “Palliative care is a wonderful approach to helping people who have a serious illness live so much better and, hopefully, stay active much longer than they would otherwise. It’s comforting to know, that as symptoms get worse, I’ll have the best help I can have for Bob – and that’s all I want.”

2020 Update: Bob passed away peacefully on March 17, 2015 at his home with his family by his side.