Have you ever heard of animals living in hospitals that have a sixth sense, knowing how to comfort people in need, and even predicting when people will die?
This story comes from Salem VA Medical Center in Virginia, where a beautiful cat named Tom gives his love and tenderness to the patiens who needs them. His skills look like a sixth sense, and he has an extreme empathy helping people who are rehabilitating. He’s very famous in the hospital, and together with the skilled staff, contributes to an holistic approach to the patient.
“You can’t beat a good, purring, loving kitty cat,” Army veteran James Gearhart from Bassett, Virginia, said. He was treated for a throat cancer. Fortunately now Gearhart recovered, surely even thanks to Tom.
As Gearhart said:
Tom knows when someone is having a hard time. He laid on my bed a lot and I rubbed and scratched him the way cats like. One day I gave him some of my Ensure vanilla drink and he drank every bit of it. Then he rubbed on me and licked my hands.
Tom once helped Dr. Blake Lipscomb, the hospital’s chief of extended care service, to pronounce a veteran dead. The two worked together to give the man the dignity in his last moments.
Tom looked up at me and meowed. He had been with the veteran and his family at a time that was hardest for them, doing exactly what we wanted him to do — to help make a more low-stress, homelike environment.
In 2012, Dottie Rizzo, chief nurse in the hospital’s extended care service, read a book together with physician assistant Laura Hart. The book was “Making Rounds with Oscar,” by Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician, and it talked about a cat named Oscar who helped dementia patients and looked like he could tell when they’re ready to die.
We knew we needed a cat just like that, we enlisted the assistance of a local veterinarian’s office manager who went to a shelter and visited with the cats for a long time before deciding on Tom.
Almost everybody loves Tom in the hospital. Even though people can choose to avoid Tom’s help by staying in a special “No Cat Zone”, most find him adorable. He’s a star, as people bring him every kind of treat, and employees love playing with him. He really looks like a member of the staff, partecipating in private team meetings, and riding service carts.
Rizzo told the story of a terminal patient with Parkinson’s disease and how he was helped by Tom to talk. She said:
With Tom in his lap, it was less difficult for him to talk, because rubbing the cat calmed him down and relaxed his vocal cords.
There’s another story of a veteran’s daughter who didn’t like cats, but her father loved Tom
One day she stepped out of her father’s room for a few minutes and Tom went in. Then the cat came out and ‘went to get her,’ meowing at her until she returned to her father’s room. Minutes later her father died. The daughter was convinced Tom made sure she was with her father when he passed.
Since Tom is such an empath, he obviously needs time to recharge himself. Hart said:
After he’s been with someone who died, he needs to be by himself for a while. It’s tough on us, because everyone is always looking for him. We love him.
He shares the weight that veterans, their families and the hospital staff carry on their shoulders.
In the book Tom the Angel Cat . The author says that Tom is “the final salute to a job well done.”
Share this heartwarming story with your loved ones.