He’s helped build hundreds, if not thousands, of buildings across the Commonwealth over a 30-year career. Keith Taylor helped build skyscrapers and commercial properties. He helped build the Costco building along Route 1 in Danvers. But it’s a tiny house along Haverhill Street in Reading that brings Taylor the most pride.
The small 18th century house is an historical landmark. The floors are original oak and the house backs up against wetlands. It was 2002 when Taylor helped the VNA of Middlesex East, now associated with Lahey Health, transform this historical space into a hospice facility.
Taylor now spends most of his time in the sun room of the house he helped build. He’s confined to a wheelchair at this point. His speech is labored. He was told he has about a year to live when he was diagnosed last August with a fast-acting version of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
So when living at home became too difficult and he had to make a choice, Taylor wasted no time in deciding he wanted to spend whatever time he had left in the hospice facility he helped build.
“There’s no cure for what I have,” Taylor said. “I love this place and I decided I wanted to come here. My body is breaking down and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my days in a hospital.”
Taylor became involved with the Sawtelle Hospice House in Reading by chance, eventually becoming a board member. In 2002, he took over the building project as the organization worked to create a hospice facility out of an historic home. With his expertise and real estate knowledge, Taylor worked on creating a hospice facility that eased a patient’s mind.
“I didn’t want this to feel like a hospital or a nursing home,” Taylor said of the facility. “I wanted it to feel like your home.”
An analysis recently released by the Health Policy Commission found that Massachusetts ranks among the lowest in the nation in number of days residents spend at home in their final six months of life, as the majority of patients forego hospice care and opt to continue receiving treatment.
“Patients must be educated about hospice care as early as possible,” said Karen Agahigian RN, BSN, executive director, hospice and palliative care at Lahey Health. “We want to make sure our patients are comfortable, focusing on quality of life; managing symptoms, and making sure what matters to them is what matters most.”
This is why, through all the buildings and structures Taylor has built throughout his career, the old historic home along Haverhill Street is his proudest accomplishment.
“This building means a lot to me,” said Taylor, eyes tearing up, of the Sawtelle house. “To create something this good – this is what I’m most proud of.”
Mr. Taylor passed away shortly after this story was published.