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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Our Rita Hayworth


Names and other personal information from a Therapy Visit cannot be shared.

Chad Burgess, Carla Donovan-Burgess and Gopher are volunteers and do not officially represent any institution mentioned in these visits.

 The experiences, conversations are true and really took place the names of persons, if given have only been changed to protect the confidentiality of those we visit.

This morning Gopher and I visited with a patient for the third time, for the purpose of the story we will refer to the patient as Rita in honor of the celebrity who suffered from the same terrible illness. Rita is suffering in a way that is personally my worst fear, her mind is not as strong, and takes her places due to a terrible unforgiving disease.

Rita sits alone in her room with staff and family checking in on her often, she stares into space not truly looking at anything or anyone, either lost in thought or lost trying to find her thoughts. She is disconnected from the world around her, and is troubled occasionally by thoughts of losing someone.

Today when we entered she was looking for her mother, and asked if I was her. I told her know and I had not seen her mother, but if she would like Gopher and I could stay and visit for awhile. She agreed and Gopher and I took a seat near her chair, and we began to visit. She smiled at Gopher, a smile she has never given me, but always gives him. That smile is one of the best images I have ever seen on a human face. Especially given the distress she visibly felt by her missing mother a few moments before. Then she began to sob, and I asked her if there was something I could do for her, or if she needed something.

After a mere moment she had transitioned from her mother to asking about her child, she had seen him for weeks and was awfully worried since he traveled. I apologized again for not having seen her child and noted the note on her calendar where they had been there only an hour before. I attempted to calm her, and asked if she wanted to call, and Gopher and I could help. Refocusing her to Gopher brought lucidity. She said no, he had just left and it was time for her to pet the dog. The tears left her eyes and she began petting and smiling, told me about her dog she had once, and how much she loved the feel of their coats.

We carried on for a few minutes and our visit had come to an end. We said our goodbyes and she thanked us for coming. We entered and she was distressed, when we left she was smiling and engaged, I do not know what happened after we left, where her mind took her next thanks to the disease. I do know that for a few moments, Gopher became an anchor to reality, and he made her smile and even laugh a bit. That is our purpose, to provide a moment or two of comfort. In a week when we return, she will assuredly not know us, we will have to reintroduce ourselves and that is fine. I just hope that we can give her a few more moments of comfort as we did this morning. 


  1. I hope Rita is doing better the next time you see her, and I hope she is able to feel the same comfort the next time you visit. I love reading about the work you are doing.

    1. Thank you so much Finn, we will see how Rita is next week. Shortly after posting this I was informed that a patient of ours had passed. Looking to attend the visitation, I guess Gopher will no longer try to steal his tennis balls.