‘Repairing’ the quality of life

Published 4:00 pm Friday, December 24, 2021

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Story submitted by Vidant Health

COLERAIN – Jimmy Belch was known as the “fix-it” man in the town of Colerain. He helped people throughout the community using his skills as a carpenter, roofer and truck driver.

However, things began to change, and Belch found himself experiencing symptoms that would greatly affect his day-to-day life.

Jimmy Belch is shown in a hydraulic deer stand, courtesy of the NC Wildlife Commission, that he used to bag a nine-point buck. Photo by Vidant Health

Leading up to his diagnosis, Belch had a roof fall on his head, fracturing a vertebra, and experienced severe pain in his wrists. He could no longer do the work he loved, and he began to suffer sever fatigue and slurred speech, making it difficult for him to explain the health challenges he was experiencing.

“Jimmy would be fine early in the morning, then his fatigue would increase during the course of the day, and he would experience falls and difficulty with his speech,” said his wife Toni Belch.

As his health began to deteriorate, the Belch family was searching for resources to help make Jimmy’s diagnosis in order to provide him better quality of life.

In spring 2020, Belch was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to muscle weakness and paralysis. Within the last six months he lost his ability to speak, is dependent on a ventilator for sleep and requires 24/7 care.

One of Jimmy’s lifelong best friends, Caroll Newbern, was key to helping the Belch family connect to resources that help him maintain quality of life.

“The staff at Vidant ALS Clinic have been instrumental in helping care for my husband,” said Mrs. Belch. “Also, the partnerships with the ALS Association and the Catfish Hunter ALS Foundation have helped in a variety of ways, including providing medical equipment, financial assistance, and items like lifts and ramps to aid mobility with his wheelchair.”

As a patient of Vidant Home Health and Hospice, Jimmy would realize he could still accomplish a lifelong dream. Hunting is a passion for Jimmy, something he has enjoyed since his childhood and something before his time in hospice care that seemed like a distant memory, until the combined community resources, including the NC Wildlife Commission who donated the use of a hydraulic lift deer stand.

Jimmy had been watching one particular deer for months and in November, with the support of the ALS Foundation, family and friends, Jimmy was able to utilize the hydraulic deer stand and score a successful hunt with the prize being the 9-point trophy deer he had watched for so long.

Because of this support, Jimmy’s dad continues to take him hunting as much as he can based on how Jimmy is feeling.

“Before Jimmy became involved with hospice care, he was withdrawn from life and depressed. Now, he has the ability to go outside, enjoy the sunshine, and even spend time with his grandson. Hospice has given Jimmy the chance to do the things he loves,” said Mrs. Belch.

“Hospice has helped take away the worries of making contacts for medications and supplies, allowing us the time to focus on the quality of Jimmy’s life as well as the quality of life for our family,” she added.

As a family, they experienced an appreciation for making memories through seeing and helping Jimmy achieve his goal. While facing a terminal illness, Jimmy and his family remain focused on the quality of time spent living and choosing how to make that time count.