[sasi] coupleface own challenges by giving
b.butterfly at comcast.net
Sun Jun 12 14:17:23 GMT 2011
The St. Petersburg Times, Florida -Sunday, June 12, 2011.
Couple face their own challenges by giving comfort to hospice patients.
NEW PORT RICHEY - Their phone rang shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday.
A patient was dying, and Art Nolden and Linda Knight didn't hesitate. They
had received special training for such moments.
They called a taxi, loaded up the dogs and headed to HPH Hospice's Marliere
As "11th-hour volunteers,'' they sat through the night with the patient.
"We talked about the sun, the rain, the dogs,'' Nolden offered the next day,
chipper despite the duty that kept them at the center until 4:15 a.m.
the silence was very important.''
Giving comfort at life's end gives special meaning to this New Port Richey
couple who have ignored their own physical challenges to become beloved
at the hospice where everyone knows them by their first names.
Linda is hearing impaired and blind and relies on Shirley, a 5-year-old
golden Labrador mix. Art is able to perceive light but objects once clear
only blurs. JJ, a 4-year-old golden retriever, is his working companion. The
four of them show up at the Marliere Care Center four hours every Wednesday,
rarely missing a day. Linda has racked up 218 volunteer, Art 227.
"It astonishes me and touches my heart. They have so many of their own
challenges to contend with but they're as reliable as the sunshine," says
Thompson, HPH Hospice volunteer coordinator, who first met them while making
a presentation to the local Lion's Club. Art and Linda are members.
Following the presentation, they approached Thompson and asked what they
could do as volunteers. Thompson appreciated their sincerity and during two
of training witnessed their strengths. Linda is keenly aware of patient
needs. She knows when to listen and when to talk and she knows when to stay
a patient and when to leave.
Art's humor adds a light touch and he makes sure patients are aware of
Linda's disability, gently encouraging them to speak a bit louder and
and Shirley lead them through hallways and into patients' rooms. There the
golden canines with mellow eyes sprawl, still and silent.
"Patients are interested in the dogs. They ask us about them, and talking to
patients about our situations takes them, for a time, out of their
It's rewarding and I find the patients inspiring," Linda said.
Their own challenges make them especially sensitive to the needs of others.
Linda was blind from birth, almost three months premature. She had hearing
before she was 5. Years later, in 2002, she received her first cochlear
implant, the second in 2004.
"Being able to hear opens many doors,'' she said. "It's a never ending
journey. When you lose your hearing and your vision you become isolated to
Linda, 54, attended Alabama State School for the Blind. In 1967, her parents
realized Florida schools were including students with all limitations in
classes. The family moved to Pensacola and Linda graduated from Escambia
High School in 1976. She attended Florida State University for one year,
transferred to Pensacola Junior College.
She volunteered for a time as a telephone operator at the VA Outpatient
Clinic in Pensacola, compensating for her lost vision by memorizing phone
She married, raised a son and a daughter and has three grandchildren, a
fourth expected soon. She divorced and reclaimed her maiden name.
Art, 67, lost vision from optic nerve atrophy, a condition that began when
he was a first-grader. Art married, had a son and daughter and served as
Court Clerk in Long Island for many years, promotions coming frequently. His
vision worsened and forced him to retire.
Divorced and tired of the New York cold, Art headed south in 1988, joining
his parents who lived in Port Richey. He learned about Lighthouse for the
and Visually Impaired and served on its board of directors from 1994-1996.
His classification as "legally blind" qualified him for a guide dog.
In June 2000 he attended a guide dog class in Palmetto. He met Linda, who
was attending the class from Columbus, Ga.
"With 16 people and 16 dogs, it was often hard for Linda to hear the
instructor," said Art, so he stepped to her side, repeating instructions.
It was the start of a team effort that blossomed into a loving relationship.
They've been together for 11 years, sharing life, household chores, and
in the local community, particularly to HPH Hospice and the Lion's Club. Art
quickly gives Linda most of the credit.
"She does all the cooking and she is great with intuition. She knows what to
say and when to say it," he said.
Linda uses her Deaf/Blind Communicator, a small complex device with Braille
and standard keyboards. If a patient would like to hear a Bible verse, for
Linda can type the specifics on the Braille keyboard and through oral
communication she can hear the passage and say it aloud to the patient.
"We love listening to and talking with patients and I think we have reached
a milestone - to be in public, to give to the community and to take part in
volunteer work here (HPH Hospice) or with the Lions," she said.
Art agreed and quickly added they are only two of scores who volunteer at
HPH Hospice in a variety of roles. Then they rose together, grasped
and headed down the hallway to visit patients.
[Last modified: Jun 11, 2011 12:02 PM]
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