Meals Improve Energy, Health for This Tough Cookie


Jean is one tough cookie. She was a do-it-all rancher—serving as wrangler, cook for the ranch hands, and occasional veterinarian—in a remote part of eastern Washington. She rode her beloved Arabian horses in 100-mile trail riding competitions. She was a paramedic, driving a four-wheel-drive ambulance complete with a winch for getting out of deep snowdrifts. For a time, she worked in law enforcement with her husband, who passed away 25 years ago.

18-wheeler? No problem. Jean can drive one of those, too.

But that tough spirit and sense of fierce independence weren’t enough when Jean’s health started to fail, prompting her doctors to put her on hospice care. “It was scary,” said Jean, “but they explained it was a precaution.” A combination of factors—including debilitating arthritis, asthma, and a heart murmur—had limited her mobility. She wasn’t eating well. Her health was getting worse.

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A health care provider suggested Jean might benefit from getting meals from Project Angel Heart. She said no. She’d heard the meals would be delivered frozen, and she doesn’t like frozen food.

But he persisted, persuading Jean to try the meals for just two weeks. She was surprised to discover that she loved them. So, when the two weeks were up, her meal deliveries continued.

Jean’s weight improved. Her bloodwork improved. Before long, her doctors decided she no longer needed hospice care.

“I’m eating more regularly and getting better quality, well-balanced meals,” said Jean. “It’s been very beneficial to my health.”

Some benefits were more surprising than others. “I sleep better and have far fewer sleep apnea episodes since I’ve been eating better,” she said. “I’m less tired now.”

Jean’s arthritis will not improve. She’ll continue to have difficulty pulling dishes out of cabinets or lifting pots and pans. Opening a can of cat food for Bizzy, a former feral cat who is now Jean’s seldom seen, but surprisingly chatty companion, will not get any easier.

But with her improved energy and delicious, ready-to-eat meals, Jean is living a full life. She’s busy caring for her neighbor, who is recovering from surgery. She takes occasional walks to the dollar store across the street. And she loves to entertain guests, like the volunteer meal delivery drivers who bring a week’s worth of meals to her door each week.

“The volunteers have all been courteous and friendly,” said Jean. “They make you feel like you’re a human being. I appreciate them all.”