Helen Doss knows she can’t go home again, but she is proud to say miracles keep loved ones close to her heart.

At 87 years old, Helen has been a resident of Princeton Health Care Center for the last five years, and going anywhere off the Courthouse Road campus requires the assistance of an ambulance and EMS workers.

She never dared to dream of going to her family reunion near Pulaski, Va., because the logistics of getting there would be so complicated.

“She told me that she’d really like to go to the reunion, but she knew she couldn’t possibly go,” Helen’s daughter, Brenda Owens, of Bluefield, said. “I told her, ‘Don’t give up. Miracles do happen.’ She told me, ‘I believe in sure things.’”

That’s just what Second Wind Dreams turned her reunion into — a sure reality that neither Helen, nor Brenda, will ever forget.

The non-profit organization committed to changing the perception and realities of aging furnished the ambulance ride from Princeton Rescue Squad, paid for the necessary medical care and even bought Helen a pretty new turquoise outfit to wear for her big day.

“They really do make dreams come true,” Brenda said.

At first, Helen was a little hesitant to make the journey to Pulaski and rekindle relationships with relatives she hadn’t seen in 20 years or more, but as soon as she got inside the church, the apprehension melted away, and she had the time of her life.

“It was really enjoyable, seeing all my loved ones,” she said.

•••

Helen was born near Austinville, Va., in a little village known as Sheep Town. There, she grew up alongside three brothers and nine sisters.

After meeting, falling in love with and marrying Mike Doss, the young family moved to Worth, where Mike briefly worked as a coal miner.

Before long, however, Mike decided mining wasn’t for him, and he made a living on an ambulance crew and by owning and operating a flower shop in Northfork.

Helen and Mike made a good life together in McDowell County, welcoming two sons — Jerry and Terry Doss — and one daughter — Brenda.

“I’ve been blessed to have two wonderful parents,” Brenda said, reminiscing.

Mike owned McDowell Floral until his passing, in 1997, and Helen continued to live in Worth, until her home and all of her belongings were destroyed in the July 8, 2001, flood that dealt a devastating blow to much of McDowell County.

“She lost everything she had,” Brenda said.

As they peered at the destruction rent by a deluge of water and the mud and streams it created, Brenda said she worried her mother would be distraught by what she saw. Instead, she got a lesson in resilience.

“She looked at me and said, ‘Brenda Kay,  let’s go. I’ve got a mansion waiting,’” Brenda recalled, adding that her mother pointed toward Heaven as she issued the instruction.

At that point, they found Helen a smaller place closer to her children, where she could live on her own for a while. Five years ago, however, her health had gotten to the point that she needed more medical attention than the family could handle, and she found her most recent home at Princeton Health Care.

“This is a wonderful facility,” Brenda said, praising the staff and constant activities they arrange for their residents. “I’ve already picked out Princeton Health Care Center for myself, when the time comes that I need that level of care. There’s always something going on here.”

She pointed to cooking classes, crafts, exercise sessions and more.

“They really keep the residents actively involved,” she said.

•••

They also helped arrange the Second Wind Dreams project that made Helen’s trip to Pulaski possible.

Two PHCC activity aides accompanied Helen on the adventure. Sylvia Terry and Sharon Griffith said they felt like they were a part of the more than 120 family members who descended on Alders Gate Methodist Church last weekend, as they tended to whatever needs Helen had during the day.

“We just made sure she was dressed and got everything together,” Sharon explained.

They helped her out the main doors of PHCC, where a PRS ambulance and crew waited, alongside dozens of well-wishers that included PHCC staffers, residents and friends.

“I think one of the highlights, really, was the launch they gave Mom to send her off,” Brenda said. “They had balloons, and there were all kinds of people there.”

As an added bonus, one of Helen’s best buddies at PHCC, Pauline Johnson, was on hand to send her off to the reunion. The pair were once roommates at the center, but their room assignments have changed over the years. Even though they both still live at PHCC, they don’t see each other as much as they once did.

Having Pauline there when her dream came true was so special that Helen called one of the PRS employees over to introduce him and tell him that she loved Pauline.

Although the 80-minute drive was a little bumpy, Helen forgot that when she started greeting family members she hadn’t seen in decades.

Her favorite visitors included a treasured sister-in-law, Barbara, and her 95-year-old sister, Lolly.

“It meant a lot to me. I’ll be 87, and I don’t know whether I’ll live to see them all again,” Helen said.

Although the Second Wind Dreams trip was intended to make Helen’s wish come true, Brenda said it was a realized dream for her, as well.

“We used to travel a lot together, and this was really special,” she said.

The adventure also touched Sylvia and Sharon, the PHCC aides who joined the fun.

“It makes me feel good to be part of doing something so nice for the residents who bring us joy,” Sylvia said.

That thought was seconded by Sharon, who added, “It’s a pleasure and a privilege for us to do that.”

•••

Princeton Health Care Center works with Second Wind Dreams to fulfill two residents’ dreams per year, in a bid to show them that life goes on, even after illness and a change of scenery.

For more information on Princeton Health Care Center, visit pmhonline.org, or call 304-487-3458.

To learn more about Second Wind Dreams, visit www.secondwind.org.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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