Book of Dreams

Barcalounger would help retired widow get back off her feet

Book of Dreams: Comfortable sleep for a giving woman

Bertha "Hannah" Holliman, 73, suffered a stroke, has a bad heart, arthritis, gout and water retention. She sleeps upright in a chair that no longer reclines. Book of Dreams readers are asked to purchase a new chair for sleeping on that reclines.
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Bertha "Hannah" Holliman, 73, suffered a stroke, has a bad heart, arthritis, gout and water retention. She sleeps upright in a chair that no longer reclines. Book of Dreams readers are asked to purchase a new chair for sleeping on that reclines.

Bertha “Hannah” Holliman, 73, of Del Paso Heights, hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in a year since her Barcalounger broke.

A host of health problems — stroke, a bad heart, crippling arthritis, gout and swollen legs keep her from resting in a regular bed or a hospital bed. The Barcalounger doesn’t recline, so she has to sit up while she sleeps. The chair’s footrest doesn’t work and she can’t elevate her feet. And the chair makes the pain worse in her back.

She lives on Social Security checks, so she doesn’t have the money to buy a new, working Barcalounger. Recently, acquaintance Angie Miranda asked the Book of Dreams to come to her aid by purchasing a new Barcalounger for about $1,500.

Miranda is convinced a functioning Barcalounger will greatly relieve Holliman’s discomfort. She needs a cushiony chair, the kind that also gives her the ability to raise or lower the top and bottom.

Holliman, who was an in-home and nursing home caregiver in Sacramento for more than 40 years , is a widow and lives alone in a small apartment. She is homebound in a cozy 12-by-16-foot living room. She has difficulty speaking, but seems to comprehend what others are saying. She is surrounded by her doll collection, a couple dozen knickknacks and four parakeets in cages. She uses her bedroom for storage.

It is not easy to watch Holliman trying to adapt in the broken Barcalounger. On a recent afternoon, her longtime caregiver Sara Farris, 37, spent more than an hour setting her up.

First, she lays four sheets and a blanket over the Barcalounger seat. Then she throws a fitted sheet over the entire chair. She transfers her client from a wheelchair to a hangar sling and then places Holliman over the chair and lowers her down as she moans.

Once seated, Farris grabs her under both arms. With a lifting and shimmying motion, she maneuvers Holliman’s body closer to the chair’s back, and then tucks more pillows behind her. Holliman lets out some more sounds, because certain positions are uncomfortable.

Farris then pushes a small footstool in front, making it taller with more blankets and pillows. Farris unbuckles Holliman’s leg braces and carefully lifts her badly swollen limbs onto the footstool.

During this process, Holliman waves her crippled hands toward her feet, motioning for an adjustment. Farris then wedges blankets and pillows on the inside and outside of her legs.

Holliman takes a heating pad for her lap. Farris then places five more blankets that cover her, chest to toes. A final blanket goes over her feet. Farris brings a plate of cooked eggplant, fruit, a drink and four Hershey’s Kisses for lunch. Holliman looks relieved the ordeal is over. Farris steps back, lets out a sigh, and wipes her brow.

“It is really sad to see her in a chair like that,” Farris said, with tears in her eyes. “It is sad to watch somebody that is so great to have to be in so much discomfort all the time.”

A new chair will make it far easier to get her ready for sleep. “She would be able to put her feet up and down when she wants, and to lie back when she wants — all that.”

A gift of a chair would mean as much to Farris as Holliman because Holliman is more than a client to her, Farris said. “She is kind and generous and loving and all-round amazing,” Farris said of Holliman. “She is the grandma I never had.”

And Holliman has great affection for Farris.

“I … love … her,” Holliman appeared to be saying slowly, struggling to mouth each word and then breaking into tears of her own.

They understand one another, both having served in the caregiving profession. They share similar values. Farris knows she doesn’t have much money to spare, but is impressed that she still donates what she can to five or six favorite charities.

“God is number one in her life,” Farris said.

Holliman reads the Bible every day and watches everything she can on a single TV channel she calls the church channel, viewing her programs from her broken Barcalounger.

The request

Needed: A new Barcalounger

Cost: $1,500

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