Monday, October 29, 2012
The True Devotion of Albert And Tomasina - A Hospice Story~
Tomasina The Ship and The Cat ~
I first met Albert when I was assigned to be his Hospice nurse. He was living in a 9 ft. camp trailer in a KOA Campground. I had been warned by the Intake nurse to be careful where I placed my feet when I was visiting with him. I soon found that he had a sandbox for his beloved cat underneath his small kitchen table.Tomasina was a white and yellow tabby cat named after the Merchant Marine Ship that Albert worked on for many years. He had a picture of the ship hanging in his trailer. Right off, I could see the love Albert and the cat had for each other; true devotion. I soon learned that Albert did not have any family and very few friends. He was very lonely. He said he didn't go out very much except when he needed groceries or for a trip to the doctor. I knew right away that I wanted a volunteer assigned to him to make visits to ease his loneliness and spend time with him.
Albert was a short stout man with a large toothless grin. He had a charming personality and I liked him right away. I started to visit him weekly. He had been diagnosed with Kidney Cancer and was told he only had a few months to live.
Within a week he was assigned a lovely woman to be his volunteer. I discuss with her my feeling that he needed someone to visit him frequently due to having no family. I warned her about the cat sand box.
A couple of weeks later on a visit to Albert I was surprised at how organized his trailer was. He had just bought some artificial flowers to put inside the trailer. I asked him why he was decorating with the flowers and he told me it was for the volunteer lady and for me. He wanted to make the trailer look good for our visits. It was just so darn sweet. When driving home I couldn't help but shed a few tears for my lonely friend, Albert.
I was paged a few weeks later that Albert had called in and wasn't doing well. I made an emergency visit and found him very lethargic and in some pain. His Blood Pressure was low so I thought perhaps he was anemic or needed a blood transfusion. I quickly made arrangements for him to be admitted into the Nathan Adelson Hospice Hospital. At that time his only concern was for Tomasina. He called and asked if the trailer park manager would drop by and feed Tomasina each day. He committed to do so.
Albert was only in the facility for a couple of days. I increased my visits with him; I could tell he was going down hill fast. On one visit I found him not doing well at all. I called to arrange for him to again be admitted into the Hospice Hospital. I knew he wouldn't be coming home this time. I agreed to take his beloved Tomasina home with me and he was thrilled that I would do this for him.
A few days later I was notified that he had slipped into a coma. When I arrived at the hospital; the charge nurse told me that I should go home and bring Tomasina to the hospital to visit Albert. At first I refused thinking that he wouldn't even know; but then I relinquished and went home to retrieve the cat. Now this wasn't an easy task. Both my husband and I tried to get the cat out from behind the dryer. He did not like our children so he would hide behind the dryer when they were home. At that time I had a very busy household of 6 children. After a few cat scratches we finally hauled the cat into the car and off to the hospice hospital we went. About 2 blocks from the hospital the car died. We were able to pull of the busy road. However, at that time the temperature outside was above a 100 degrees; so I knew we couldn't stay in the car for long. I ran across the street and called the hospice. My boss said she would come and get us. She drove up in her nice new car and Tomasina and I hopped in. On the way to the hospice; the cat peed all over me and the car. I of course was upset and I felt bad for my boss and her new car. When I got out of the car I thought this is such a crazy idea. As I went down to the room I thought to myself; OK, I have brought Tomasina to see Albert; he needs to know that. Now when a patient is in a coma we don't ordinarily try to wake them up; but in this situation I ignored that. I shouted in Albert's ear; "Tomasina is here for a visit." At first there was no response so I tried again more loudly. Albert suddenly opened his eyes and looked at his beloved Tomasina and he had one of the most priceless toothless grins I had ever seen. I placed Tomasina under his hands. The cat remained quiet as Albert petted him for a few minutes and then Albert slipped quietly back into his coma. I left the Tomasina there with Albert while I ran home to change clothes and finish up my home visits. When I came back the cat was hiding in the closet and Albert laid there peacefully. I picked up Tomasina and took him back home with me. The tears came gushing forth on the way home. I was so glad that I had brought that moment of happiness to Albert.
A couple of days later I was called again and told that Albert was in the process of dieing. Again, the charge nurse wanted me to go home and get Tomasina; which I did. As we entered into the room; I could tell that Albert was close to death's door. I placed Tomasina under his hand and then called to see if the volunteer could come and sit with Albert since he was all alone. I was grateful she came and I left to hurry and finish my work for the day. A couple of hours later I was paged and told that Albert quietly passed away with Tomasina still under his hand. I rushed back to the hospice hospital. I was so happy that Albert had not died alone. When they came to get Albert's body, Tomasina continued to stay steadfast on the bed. He dug his claws into the bed; he didn't want to leave that spot. I finally took Tomasina home to stay for good with us. I truly grieved over Albert. He was a very dear man and I felt it was a privileged to be his nurse and friend.
Two months later, Tomasina became sick and the Veterinary told us that he had Kidney disease and would not live long. This cat passed away a few days later.
I will never forget that priceless toothless grin of my friend Albert. I knew then as I know now that
Albert was not alone when he passed away. I believe that perhaps even Tomasina the cat joined with Albert again. I could just picture that reunion; Albert petting that special cat, Tomasina. Even now I can't stop the tears when thinking about my friend, Albert and his devoted cat, Tomasina.