Juli Sears with her mom, Jodi, brothers and sister.

Mother of Ava’s House patient shares story

January 20, 2021

Story by Jodi Sears, mom of Ava’s House patient Juli Sears

No family wants to have to go through the death of a loved one —whether a young child or an elderly parent. We don’t want to have to say goodbye.

But having a place like Ava’s House available through this difficult journey is such a blessing.

My youngest daughter, Juli, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor at 13 years old.

Juli liked taking pictures, painting, hanging out with friends and watching “Supernatural.” She was just starting to discover herself.

We had hoped to fight the cancer, but before we got the chance, Juli suffered two seizures and brain bleeding. There wasn’t anything we could do.

I had to make the difficult decision to bring Juli home or go into hospice. I chose hospice at Ava’s House, and I would never change that choice. We wouldn’t have had the same level of support at our home in Rock Valley, Iowa.

No one wants to go through this, but if you do, it’s so nice to have people walk with you in that journey. At Ava’s House, there was always someone to answer our questions and help guide us through difficult decisions.

We were at Ava’s House for 31 days, and everyone became like our extended family. The nurses, doctors, Child Life team and volunteers took such good care of Juli and our entire family.

Juli Sears with her mom, Jodi, and sister.

They made sure Juli had her favorite foods, caramel frappuccinos and chicken strips, whenever she wanted. They joked with us in lighter times and provided support through the darker days.

Most of all, they helped us cherish our time with Juli.

I was able to spend every day and night close to my daughter. From the patient rooms to common areas to the outdoor walking path, everything was so intentional and created with families like ours in mind.

Ava’s House allowed us to have interaction and support from other families but still have our privacy. Juli’s room had everything she needed and space for our family, which was so important, especially for her sister, Jesse, and brothers, Justin and Joseph.

Even our little dog, Luna, could stay with us, which meant the world to Juli.

Juli passed away on Sept. 23, 2019. The whole experience was indescribably difficult, but Ava’s House helped us make the most of our time together.

I knew our insurance wasn’t going to cover her time in the hospital and at Ava’s House, but I never expected the letter that arrived a few weeks after Juli passed. It said we wouldn’t have to pay anything out-of-pocket for her stay. That letter brought me to tears, and I’m so grateful to the donors who provided financial support to our family and those like us.

Thank you to everyone who made Ava’s House possible and for continuing to support the programs and services that make it such a special place. You make such a difference for families like ours.


More about Ava’s House

Ava’s House, an acute-level, inpatient hospice facility in Sioux Falls, provides 24-hour nursing care to patients of all ages in a home-like environment.

Since opening in October 2017, Ava’s House has cared for more than 1,000 patients and their families, including five pediatric patients like Juli.

Ava’s House wouldn’t exist today without the generosity of community members who donated $10 million to build the hospice facility. Today, donors continue to support the work of Ava’s House including spiritual care, Child Life, expert caregiving and financial assistance for families like the Searses.

To learn more about supporting the future of Ava’s House, contact our team at (605) 312-6702.