Cameron McKinley: Mount Evans was “always there to help him”
Reprinted from Mountain Connection, September 2014
by Stephen Knapp
On the morning of July 25, 2014, President Obama signed into law a bill officially re-designating the federal veterans center in Prescott, Ariz., as the Dr. Cameron McKinley Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Center. Sponsored by Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, the bill had received strong public and private endorsements from around the nation, and had easily passed in both houses of Congress. The center provides mental health services and outreach throughout northern Arizona.
One evening last autumn, Anne and Cameron McKinley hosted a slide show at their Hidden Valley home. It was a purely informal affair showcasing a selection of Cameron’s award-winning photographs, but the short guest list was packed with some of the most important people in the McKinley’s lives.
Kim Rozman was there, seated on the couch next to the McKinley’s daughter, Carol. A field nurse with Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice, Rozman had been a regular and welcome guest of the McKinley’s for years. Katie Mullen, a Mount Evans certified nursing assistant, wouldn’t have missed the show for anything. Mount Evans medical director Tracey Stiller, MD, was on hand, as were registered nurse Kim Westerberg and social worker Mary Noonan.
“The slide show was actually their idea,” smiles Anne. “They knew he was getting weaker and they wanted him to be able to show it before it was too late.”
Anne and Cameron moved to Evergreen eight years ago to be near their daughter’s home in Genesee. By 2007, the residual effects of a 1994 heart attack were pressing the limits of his physical resilience. In medical terms, Cameron suffered from cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure compounded by renal failure and respiratory complications. In practical terms, he was in a fight he couldn’t win. But Cameron was never one to accept defeat easily, and he had some extremely dedicated allies.
“Mount Evans was always there to help him. To help us.”
In June, 2012, Cameron came home from the Buchanan Recreation Center and went straight to bed. He awoke to find his circumstances irrevocably changed.
“He transitioned directly from home health care to hospice care,” Anne says. “We had to accept the fact that he was only going to get worse.” The hospice nurse assigned to Cameron happened to be Rozman. “My goodness, what a wonderful thing that was.”
For 14 months Dr. Stiller monitored Cameron’s condition and directed his care. Mullen was ever-present, offering respite, encouragement and tireless attention. Westerberg was available to address every crisis, and Noonan was an unfailing source of emotional support. Cameron Keith McKinley died at home in the company of his wife and daughter on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013. He was 82
“Kim helped me dress Cameron for the trip to the crematorium. God, what good people they are.”
After 58 years of marriage, Anne felt terribly, hopelessly alone. With a little nudge from Mount Evans bereavement counselor Bev Wennogle, she found common ground at an eight-week Mount Evans grief group led by Wennogle and her colleague Heather Aberg.
“I appreciate so much what Bev and Heather were able to do, and what they were able to bring to the group.”
Anne’s relationship with Mount Evans is by no means ended. She saw her dear friends again when Rozman and the Mount Evans Memory Quilters present her and Carol with warm and comfy remembrances crafted from Cameron’s clothes. And she saw them again when she presented each of them with a final gift from Cameron.
“At the slide show he told them each to pick their favorite slide and he’d have it blown up and framed for them,” Anne says. “He wasn’t able to do that before he died, but we made sure it got done. They’re like family.”