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TCU Celebrates One-Year Anniversary— Brester Credits Facility With Her Outlook on Life


Bonnie Brester had a rough year. Her husband, Mark, died in July 2022, and about six months later, Brester received a breast cancer diagnosis that would change not only her outlook on life but where she would call home.

Brester began treatment for the cancer in January, but about three days after one of her chemotherapy treatments her condition quickly declined.

“I had developed neuropathy and I was going to have to learn to walk all over again,” Brester said. “I needed emotional support. I needed physical therapy. I needed a place that could care for me throughout the day.”

While she had lived in Billings, Montana, with her husband prior to his passing, Brester knew her new situation wouldn’t allow for that independence. She moved to Sheridan and began receiving care in Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Transitional Care Unit, which provides a recuperative and supportive place to heal following injury, surgery or serious illness. For Brester, Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s TCU meant she could be closer to family because her son, Dusty, and his wife, Jamie, live in Sheridan.

“I can’t say enough about all the great people at Sheridan’s TCU unit,” Jamie Brester said. “My mother has been in TCU twice for short amounts of time and just recently, my mother-in-law spent approximately 90 days there.”

“…Having her in Montana and us down here was not an option,” Jamie Brester said of her mother-in-law. “Bonnie was released to the TCU in July after Billings providers had told us to start looking at hospice options.

“When she got to Sheridan, chemotherapy had taken so much out of her she could not walk or eat and was not comprehensive most of the time. We thought we were going to lose her,” Jamie Brester added. “Once she got to Sheridan, everything changed. Bonnie started to feed herself, started physical therapy and really started to live again.”

The new TCU space at Sheridan Memorial Hospital opened in the fall of 2022, after several years of planning and construction. The new space, located on the second and third floors of the original 1954 hospital, includes 20 private suites for those needing time, space and help in healing.

“The first year has been full of celebrations, lessons, growth and achievements,” said Ashlee Winne, TCU manager. “I really enjoy seeing the progress the patients make. They come in sometimes at the hardest times of their lives and by the time they leave are often in better condition and spirits than before whatever illness or injury brought them to TCU. It really is a blessing to watch each patient’s individual journey.”

Now open for more than one year, TCU has served more than 188 individuals.

Bonnie Brester spent 100 days in TCU, relearning the skills she would need to live at home. She relearned how to walk. She practiced balance that would allow her to reach for a glass out of the cupboard and conduct daily personal hygiene. She worked hard to build the strength needed to get in and out of vehicles and step over and onto curbs.

“Everybody was so enthusiastic and so patient with me,” Brester said. “One of the first times I was able to walk with my walker, there were several nurses there cheering me on. It was a whole cheering section just for me.”

Patients on the TCU have an entire team of healthcare professionals available to help in the healing process. The team includes nurses, nurses’ aides, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, nurse practitioners, doctors, case managers and more.

Thanks to that team, Bonnie Brester said she feels ready to live with Dusty, Jamie and their family in Sheridan.

“The people here at TCU have really given me a lot of support and a lot of good therapy,” Brester said. “The biggest thing I had to learn was to believe in myself, that I could do this. It was hard for me, but everyone was so encouraging. They wouldn’t let me go home if they weren’t sure I was ready.”

Jamie Brester said their family owes Bonnie Brester’s progress to the staff at SMH.

“Bonnie has been back home for a few weeks now, but misses her connections from the hospital,” she said. “She made friends with just about everyone there. I really believe the environment allowed her to thrive and she became determined to win at this game called life.”

To learn more about the hospital’s Transitional Care Unit: https://www.sheridanhospital.org/medical-services/transitional-care/