A woman who cared for her husband throughout his debilitating disease—then moved from Boston to Fredericksburg and nursed a man suffering from the same illness—has earned national recognition for her compassion and “top-notch care.”
Susan Scott recently was named National Caregiver of the Year by Maxim Healthcare Services, a home health care provider. The 60-year-old is a licensed practical nurse who lives in Fredericksburg and works out of the Woodbridge office.
Maxim “was lucky to find Sue,” said Gregory Giallourakis, operations manager for the company, adding that the timing couldn’t have been better.
Scott had lived in Boston with her husband, Andy, a beloved physical therapist. After he died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in June 2015, Scott realized she no longer could live alone in the house where the couple had raised their four children.
She set out for Fredericksburg, where she didn’t know anyone, she said in the Free Lance–Star last month. She took a job with the home health-care agency, and when Maxim officials realized her background with ALS, they asked if she’d take on a patient with the same condition.
There was no hesitation on her part, but friends and family feared she was out of her mind, Scott said in a video played during the awards ceremony.
“It hadn’t even been a year since Andy passed, but I felt like it was something I needed to do,” she said.
As it turned out, “it became a match made in heaven,” Giallourakis said.
Scott started caring for Richard “Rick” Cole, a former Navy corpsman, in May 2016. He had been diagnosed with the illness, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2011 and had a tracheostomy and ventilator to breathe, a feeding tube and a drain for his liver.
Scott had to give him nebulizer treatments and insulin, change his dressings frequently and crush as many as 40 pills a day and feed them through his tube.
By the time Scott met him, Cole could no longer could speak. He communicated through an eye tracker, a device in which he’d gaze at the letters on a monitor, then his thoughts would be verbalized.
“She takes the best care of my family,” Cole said through the device. “I love her for doing what she does.”
His wife, Yvette, said Scott understood the disease because of what she’d been through with her own husband. She treated Cole “like a person and not just like a patient lying in bed,” Yvette Cole said.
Maxim put together the video and named Scott the regional caregiver while Cole was still living. He died in December, a few days before Christmas.
As the health care agency praised Scott’s reliability and positivity, compassion and “top-notch care,” according to Giallourakis, the nurse knew the relationship with the Coles had been just as good for her.
No doubt, there were times when she was overwhelmed by the extent of care Cole required. But there also were moments when Scott realized Cole and his wife had been through similar experiences as she and her husband.
The patient and nurse found themselves talking, not only about end-of-life decisions, but also happy memories. Instead of being the worst possible situation for a grieving widow, it became the best way for the woman to find her place in a new world.
“Rick saved me,” Scott said. “It was absolutely destiny that I’m here in Virginia, and it’s done me a world of good.”