Thomas Henry Gives Thanks for his Duke HomeCare & Hospice Team

thomasWilma. My angel. Chuckles. Mad Dog. The names of a motorcycle crew? Professional wrestlers? Nope! They are the nicknames lovingly bestowed by Thomas Henry upon his Duke Home Care and Hospice (DHCH) team. “They’re family to me now and they have turned my life around,” says Thomas. As a tribute to his team, he created t-shirts with their nicknames and the DHCH logo. “Thanks to them, I’m comfortable and not suffering,” he says.

Thomas suffered for years because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which forced him in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. “I really struggled, going back and forth to the hospital, sometimes up to three or four times a month,” he says. “I would be in the hospital, go home and then two days later, be back in the hospital because I couldn’t breathe.”

In August 2019, together with his family and physicians, Thomas made the decision to be admitted to home hospice care. “Since I’ve been on hospice, I’m a new man,” he says. “The last two years, I haven’t had to go to the hospital. I have better care than I did in the hospital which has been a blessing for me.” Although Thomas is dependent on oxygen and has a heavy medication regimen to manage his symptoms, his team helps him find joy in life.

Wilma, better known as Katrina, is the registered nurse who visits Thomas twice weekly. “She reminds me of Wilma from The Flintstones (a 1960’s cartoon series), because of her ponytail,” says Thomas. “She’s a caring nurse and great person who takes really good care of me; she’s compassionate and is there for me any time I need anything.”

My home health aide stuck with me and has helped me so much. She is just a wonderful person; I couldn’t ask for better people.

Five days each week, home health aide Robin Tilley, aka Mad Dog, visits Thomas to help him bathe, get things done around the house, and be a friendly visitor. “I was stubborn in the beginning in terms of trying to breathe too fast,” he says. “But she stuck with me and has helped me so much. She Is just a wonderful person; I couldn’t ask for better people.”

Another person on that roster of great people is social worker Sarah McNulty. “I call her Chuckles because she puts a smile on my face, is full of life, and makes me feel good,” says Thomas. “Whatever I need, she is right there and she takes care of everything.”

The final member of Team Thomas is Chaplain Amanda Hayes Bowman, who visits Thomas twice each month. He wasn’t very religious throughout his life until the chaplain began visiting and reading scripture to him. “She’s my angel. Her reading the Bible and talking with me about the verses makes me at peace,” he says. “If I pass away tomorrow, believe it or not, I’d be okay with it.”

Thomas says that his family—his son, four grandchildren, and nephew—worried that starting hospice meant that Thomas would die within three to six months. That fear proved unfounded. “Before I started hospice, I was in really bad shape,” he says. “My team cared for me and communicated very well with me it all has worked out great.”

“Bottom line—if I didn’t have hospice, I’d be dead,” says Thomas. “I have my good days and my bad days but I’m comfortable and thankful.”

Since I’ve been on hospice, I’m a new man.

- THOMAS HENRY, Duke HomeCare & Hospice patient


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