0Kevin Chederquist remembers when he and his wife, Kristin, embraced life’s uncertainty and took a bold step: selling everything they owned and moving to China. The couple felt called in their faith to make a brave change by returning to the country where they had adopted their son, Jack. But while Kristin had once been quiet and unassuming, the move triggered a kind of life transformation. In the city of Shanghai, Kristin would rush into the streets to help injured people in distress when no one else would.
“It was amazing watching the nurses around the patients. There was such a compassionate level of care happening.”—Kevin
She started working at a school, and soon parents asked her to become the CEO. Even her background in music and theater were being utilized, which led to further training in Italy. “All of her past experiences were coming out and metamorphosing into greatness,” Kevin says. “She found herself. And she found this amazing reservoir of peace and tranquility.” When she moved to Duluth, Minnesota with her husband and children, Kristin continued marching forward. Then a diagnosis of colon cancer shook their world and slowed it to a stop. Fifteen months later, they got the news that Kristin should enter hospice care immediately in order to regain her strength for more treatments. They felt unprepared for hospice. Thankfully, a doctor told them about Solvay. Kevin paid a visit and instantly sensed the calm, loving environment was the right place to be. “It was amazing watching the nurses around the patients. There was such a compassionate level of care happening,” he says.
During the next seven days, the Chederquists became the ones blanketed in this atmosphere of loving attention and kindness. When the couple wanted to go out to eat, but couldn’t, the staff served them a special dinner: “our ‘Lady and the Tramp’ night,” Kevin says. When the family hired a photographer, nurses prepared Kristin for the special shoot. They hid gifts for a child’s birthday party. And so much more. “The nurses were incredible. They always knew the ‘patch’ that needed to be put on at that moment, at any moment,” Kevin says. “We felt like we were in a 5-star hotel. There was this amazing dignity to Kristin’s life that could be elevated and respected—with the architecture and ambience of Solvay, with the meals and more. It was really customized care. It was all perfect.”
He was able to relax and not worry about cooking and cleaning bedpans, but focus on being fully present. That’s exactly what Solvay’s team of 35 nurses, housekeepers and cooks do every day for the patients in the home’s 12 rooms. “In each of the rooms, there are special people. And we ask how we can make this the best part of the end of their journey,” says nurse clinician Lynn Ewer. She fondly recalls the special energy Kristin and her loved ones brought to Solvay. “I remember the day she came in: on a stretcher, sitting up waving, saying ‘thank you for having me!’ She and her family were wonderful.”
When things changed quickly for Kristin, the nurses were even more vital. “I’d been sleeping there every night, monitoring. She had a good night but was bedridden, so I went home to take care of the dogs. I got a call at 6 a.m. the next morning and the nurse said, ‘We’re at the end, she’s waiting for you.’ I got there and her breathing was labored, the nurses were crying, and I put my arms around Kristin … and she stopped breathing. Just like that.” Kristin died September 19, 2020, at age 57. “She would want to share her gratitude with everyone who’s made such a beautiful gift to our region possible,” Kevin says. “It was amazing. We could relax in the knowledge that we were being cared for and focus on each other. And we had a wonderful ending, thanks to Solvay.”
Solvay Hospice House, built and maintained by Miller-Dwan Foundation, is a setting where kindness is at the heart of the dying experience. The Foundation relies on ongoing generosity to maintain the facility and ensure everyone in our region has access to this unique resource.