Pat Lynch's Story
Pat Lynch grew up playing baseball on the vacant lot next to his childhood home in Watertown. His love for the game continued to grow, and in his earlier years he spent nights and weekends playing town team baseball. As he got older, he enjoyed cheering on the high school teams. Sports continued to play an important role, helping him meet the love of his life.
“There was a snowstorm and not many people were coming to the high school basketball game,” said Joan, Pat’s wife. “I was a cheerleader. We had about five guys in the crowd and Pat was one of them. A friend set us up as a joke.” Pat and Joan were married in 1979 and had four beautiful children. Despite these busy times, his love of the game never stopped.
“I grew up on a ball field cheering for him,” said Katie Leuthner, Pat’s first-born daughter. Baseball had taken a toll on his body, and in 2014, Pat was prepping for knee replacement surgery. In anticipation for the surgery, he received a full-body scan that revealed enlarged lymph nodes on his back. These were benign, but this was the start of Pat’s health care journey.
Later that year, after experiencing extreme fatigue, Pat was diagnosed with stage 4 diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the most common type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a fast-growing disease. His prognosis was good, but because of acuity and disease progression, Pat received chemotherapy at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
The results were extraordinary, and his family was so grateful. But, at his two-year follow-up appointment in 2017, Pat heard unfortunate news. The lymphoma was back, and doctors found a precancerous spot on his colon. Pat decided to undergo more chemotherapy at Mayo Clinic and receive a stem cell transplant.
“It took a toll on his body, but his spirit was strong,” said Anna Sandquist, Pat’s third-born daughter. For the next three years, Pat continued to live life to the fullest by enjoying his four children and 12 grandkids, ranging in age from 14 years old to 1 year old.
“Dad was “Papa” to his grandkids, and he was playful and fun,” said Anna Sandquist. “Grandma would bake cookies and she would give every kid one cookie. Papa would give them two. He was everyone’s cheerleader, and he was always present.”
In January 2021, after walking up the stairs and not being able to catch his breath, Pat knew something was wrong. Subsequent lab results confirmed that Pat had myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare complication of chemotherapy. This resulted in three-times-a-week blood transfusions at Mayo Clinic.
As a result, Pat’s immune system was reduced to nothing. He had no means of fighting off any infections or illnesses. The MDS caused his bone marrow to stop producing healthy cells - no usable red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets. Which is why Pat was later admitted into Ridgeview’s Emergency Department for fungal infection in his lungs.
“He caught a fungal infection from the air,” said Joan, “Our bodies have immune systems that fight it off. His didn’t and he couldn’t fight it.” The family consulted with both Pat’s Ridgeview physician and his physician at Mayo Clinic, and they made the difficult decision to enter Pat into Hospice Car e. He was exhausted living appointment-to-appointment and wanted to be at home.
“Hospice was a scary word for me,” said Joan. “It was a word I could hardly ever hear. It was a word that bothered me. It was a dark word that hung over me.”
Within hours of calling Ridgeview Hospice, the family was at ease.
“We normalize what a lot of people feel,” said Ann Schwichtenberg, hospice nurse. “I was able to reduce some of that fear and anxiety and show it doesn’t have to be a scary event. It’s actually a really supporting thing that we provide.”
“They saved us,” said Leuthner. “They brought peace and calm to my dad, but they were even here more for us. Dad was always at peace. It was the rest of us who were a mess. Hospice gave us a peace and calm and strength that we didn’t have.”
Every part of the hospice experience was instantly familiar. From the Hospice team member who delivered the bed to Pat’s house, to the massage therapist who provided comfort in his final hours, all of them were familiar from church and the community.
“I think God really did a number and said ‘I’m really going to make you trust these people,’” said Joan. “These people I either worked with or knew in the community, people I already trusted.”
Ridgeview Hospice prides itself on its multidisciplinary team that includes social workers, music therapy, massage therapy and chaplain services. Each member of the team provided such value to Pat and his family.
“My favorite part of working at Ridgeview Hospice is the team of people I get to work with,” said Schwichtenberg. “We all have a common goal to provide the best quality of life and dignity for our patients. We all see the value of each of our disciplines.”
At 11 p.m. on July 3, Pat became uncomfortable at home and his family was nervous. But, they knew even on a holiday and late at night, they could reach Schwichtenberg.
“My dad didn’t have much time left and we didn’t know what to do to help him,” said Aaron Lynch, Pat’s son. “Everyone was struggling to cope with what was going on. I called Ann. She didn’t ask, she just said she’d be right over. It seemed like when I hung up the phone she was at the door. She saved us. When she left, this house was at peace.”
Pat passed peacefully in the early hours of July 4, surrounded by his family. “All my dad wanted was to be at home, looking out his window,” Emily Lynch Victory, his second-born daughter, said “He got that for the last few days of his life. It was exactly what he wanted. Maybe it was 20 years too soon, but it was perfect.”
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