Homeless man getting the chance to turn life around | TheUnion.com

Homeless man getting the chance to turn life around

John Hart
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

He was practically around the corner, marking time in a room at the Holiday Lodge, eating fast-food handouts and enjoying, for the first time in weeks, the comfort of a soft bed.

Diane Warwick read about him: how Charles Paxton was found behind Nevada City’s National Hotel, a wheelchair and tattered sweater his only refuge from the springtime cold, how the kindness of strangers brought the 62-year-old to the motel.

The motel literally around the corner from where Warwick worked as a nurse at Grass Valley Convalescent Hospital.

Thursday, Warwick decided she’d try to give Paxton a chance at a new life.

“When I saw these people living right behind me, I had to do something,” said Warwick, a registered nurse and the convalescent home’s director of nursing.

“I saw this man in a wheelchair, and he was right behind us. Maybe I could look at his tracheostomy,” a device that helps Paxton breathe. He had cancer of the esophagus.

Paxton was admitted to the 59-bed facility Thursday. He’s receiving three squares a day now, and hospital officials are taking care of his medical arrangements, which include Medi-Cal. His broken ankle, which put him in a wheelchair, will soon be set. He’ll soon see a surgeon to help fix his broken breathing tube.

In the coming days, Warwick and the hospital staff plan to investigate housing options.

For Paxton, it’s the beginning of a new life. For Warwick, Paxton’s recovery means a renewed dedication to her work.

“I’m so very grateful for what she’s done,” Paxton said as he sat in the hospital’s recreation room Tuesday. Though he still sported a sun-baked face, his voice and spirits were raised.

“I’m not getting very active, but I’m getting the rest and nutrition I need. I had no faith at all until she came. It relieves a lot of stress, believe me.

“It gives me a sense of living. I now have some hope.”

Warwick contacted San Juan Ridge resident Claire Grondona, who along with the Emergency Assistance Coalition paid for several nights of lodging at the motel near the convalescent hospital. If not for Grondona, Warwick might never have made the call that changed Paxton’s life.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Grondona, who previously had been down on the community for its lack of support for the homeless. “I just happened to run into a bunch of loving people.”

Warwick was one of them.

“This wouldn’t have happened without Diane,” said Mindy Burnett, the convalescent hospital’s assistant administrator. “I was hesitant to take him in at first, because of all the stereotypes about the homeless. But it feels wonderful to be a part of something a little bigger than ourselves.”

Warwick has had her sense of purpose restored.

“It gave me so much enthusiasm to help someone. It gave me, as a nurse, a second wind. I’m excited to be a nurse again.”

Once he receives medical treatment, Paxton hopes to visit an ailing sister in Fairfield and rekindle a relationship with his 42 year-old son, Charles, who lives in Stevenson, Wash.

“Now,” he said, “there’s a light in the tunnel.”

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