FPS staff report
April 24, 2012
|Laurel DuBeck, (at left) a representative of Area Agency on Aging, Region 9, Inc., is shown with Ed Burchfield (center) and his daughter, Missy Walton. Burchfield was named “Caregiver of the Year” at the annual Carroll County Caregiver Luncheon. Walton nominated him for his relentless, unselfish care of her sister, the late Shelli DeSimone.
Sacrifice. Unconditional love. Relentless support.
These were words used to describe Ed Burchfield of Carrollton, who was named “Caregiver of the Year” at the 8th annual Carroll County Caregiver Luncheon held April 19 at Atwood Yacht Club.
The Caregiver of the Year winner is chosen by a committee of people who reside outside Carroll County. They do not know the caregivers or patient but judge by the story that best shows what a caregiver goes through on a daily basis and which really touches their heart. Burchfield was nominated by his daughter, Missy Walton, who wrote, “I would like to nominate my father, Ed Burchfield, for the Carroll County Caregiver of the Year award, for the relentless care he provided by sister during her battle with cancer.”
Walton’s sister, Shelli DeSimone, 47, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. She received treatment and remained cancer free for almost seven years. In 2007, Shelli noticed her vision was blurred. An ophthalmologists referred her to her oncologist who told her it was a brain tumor resting on an optic nerve.
The diagnosis put Shelli in stage 4 breast cancer, which had metastasized to her brain and bones. She endured over 20 brain tumors, each treated with gamma knife radiation.
Being selfless and hoping to find a cure for herself and others, Shelli became part of an experimental chemotherapy study which left her crippled and unable to walk. Due to the crippling disability, Shelli was told the best place for her was a nursing home. Ed and his wife, Barb, told the doctor, “No child of ours is going to a nursing home. She is coming home with us.”
Shelli was a widow so her parents moved in with her to provide 24-hour care. Walton stated in her nomination, “They (Ed and Barb) sold everything they worked their entire lives for in order to care for Shelli.” She explained her father did it all for her sister from bathing and dressing her to feeding her and taking her to every doctor’s appointment.
“He was her ‘legs’ as he carried her to and from her wheelchair,” Walton said. “This was a physically demanding task on my father, yet he never once complained. In fact, as a testimony to Ed’s amazing character, he took care of Shelli with nothing but absolute joy in his heart. Even on Shelli’s worst days, he was always the one to get her to smile and laugh.”
“One day, he looked at my sister and thanked her for letting him take care of her,” Walton noted in the nomination. “With tears in her eyes, Shelli said, ‘I really have no choice Dad, but this isn’t right. I should be the one taking care of you someday.’”
While some caregivers would be happy to get a break, Ed wasn’t. When Shelli was hospitalized once for two weeks, Ed said, “I need my baby home with me. I miss taking care of her.”
Ed remained Shelli’s caregiver until her passing Sept. 27, 2011.
Walton said, “As a child, I always knew ‘Daddy loved us,’ but I now look at my father in a completely different way and know I not only have an amazing father, but through his selfless acts, he has shown me the true meaning of unconditional love. I know it would mean the world to Shelli, to watch down from Heaven and see our father get honored for his sacrifice, his unconditional love and the relentless support he gave during the remaining days of her life.”
Laurel DeBeck, RN, of the Area Agency on Aging, Region 9, Inc., a sponsor of the luncheon, stopped several times while reading Burchfield’s nomination, apologizing stating, “This is hard for me and I don’t even know the family.” Burchfield accepted the award stating, “It was an honor to take care of my daughter.”
The Carroll County Caregiver Luncheon, held annually, features a complimentary meal for any in-home, unpaid caregiver residing in Carroll County. Relaxation stations, door prizes and other displays were available for caregivers before the luncheon. Entertainment was provided by a Blues Brothers tribute band.
Other caregivers honored included: Linda Brown, Jean Dingess, and Christina Garner.
For more information about the Area Agency on Aging, Region 9 and its programs, visit http://aaa9.org.