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Childhood Experience Shapes Caring Ethos for Oakland Nurse

When her uncle was dying, Natasha Robinson, pictured at right, was not allowed to visit him in the hospital. She vowed to change that.

When Kaiser Permanente Nurse Manager Natasha Robinson, RN, was 8 years old, her beloved Uncle John was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 colon cancer. With time running out, she naturally wanted to visit him at the rural Mississippi hospital to say goodbye.

But a strict policy prohibiting children denied her a last visit.

“We were very close,” Robinson remembered.

Shortly after her uncle died, Robinson made a vow to change the rules “so people can say goodbye to their loved ones.”

Thirty-nine years later, Kevin Jones of Oakland entered the COVID-19 ward on March 20 under Robinson’s care at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center. Robinson and Jones hit it off right away. But 2 days later Jones took a turn for the worse and was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) where doctors initially gave him a 50% chance of survival.

“Every time I see someone like Kevin, I know that I made the right decision to become a nurse and that my voice does matter.”

Then there was more bad news.

“They were giving me a 10% to 15% chance of his survival,” said Jones’ husband and partner of 34 years, Martin Jones. “I was struggling to get a will together and trying to figure out who would take care of our dog, because I now tested positive for coronavirus too.”

Knowing how important an end-of-life visit would be for the couple, Robinson began planning how to get Martin to see Kevin for the last time.

‘I Got to Touch Him’

“At this time, no visitors were allowed in, period, let alone someone who had tested positive for COVID-19,” Robinson said. “But if you heard your spouse has a very small chance of survival, you’re going to want to say your goodbyes and be with him. I could not imagine not being able to hold my husband’s hand and say goodbye if he was terminally ill.”

Robinson consulted with infectious disease specialist Jennifer Arnold, MD, the ICU nurse manager, and ICU physician. They all agreed a visit was the right thing to do, with all the current protocols in place to keep others safe.

“It was quite dramatic,” said Martin. “They had me drive into the loading dock, all secured. They had security guards make sure the hallways were empty, and they made sure nobody else was in the elevator. They taught me how to put on all the protective gear and sanitize.

“When I got up to the ward, Kevin was on the ventilator, asleep. I got to touch him.”

Twenty days after being placed on the ventilator, Kevin started making a miraculous recovery, leaving the ICU and returning to the care of Robinson.

“When he came back to my unit, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” said Robinson.

Getting to visit his husband for what he thought was the last time “was a huge gift” Martin said. “I can never thank Natasha enough for making that happen. It was invaluable.”

Kevin Jones was discharged from the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center on April 20 after being treated for COVID-19. He was rolled through the hallway as physicians, nurses, and staff cheered for him and celebrated his recovery.

Robinson didn’t stop there, though. When Kevin was ready to leave the hospital, she orchestrated a sendoff, and played Kevin’s favorite song, Gloria Gaynor’s disco anthem “I Will Survive.”

Kevin Jones spent 31 days in the hospital and is now recovering at home with Martin, the love of his life.

“When I was leaving the hospital, I was still disoriented, but I remember Natasha and the dress she was wearing,” said Kevin. “She was very kind. She was the last nurse I saw. She got me out of there.”

For Robinson, not all stories end like this, but when they do, nothing feels better.

“Every time I see someone like Kevin, I know that I made the right decision to become a nurse and that my voice does matter.”


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This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. It is so refreshing to have a manager that not only cares and contributes to the care of her patients but also to the care of her staff. We appreciate Natasha being our manager and our positive pulse of professional nursing care!! Glad to be a part of building a winning team!!

  2. Thank you for such a heartwarming story during this. This is what made me decide to go into healthcare. My Papa was in the hospital dying from terminal cancer, failure to thrive and all he wanted to do was see me, and me him. A very kind nurse snuck me into the hospital to see him… I don’t remember her name, I remember her kind face. Her kind actions. My Papa came home three weeks later. The doctor said love fixed him. I believe it. Love and Compassion. This is why we do what we do.

  3. I’ve been a Kaiser patient for nearly 30 years, and I’ve seen the inside of an operating room more than anyone should. But I remember every single time I was there, as if it was a party for me or something. My own doctor stopping by to see how I was doing, even though she wasn’t on call. The nurse who sat up with me all night because we thought I had cancer (I didn’t, thank God!!). The ophthalmologist who joked with me when I woke up during surgery and said, I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want the cataract removed!! The pre-op nurse who drew all over the leg that wasn’t broken so the doctor would know which one to operate on. The doctor who gave me a red cast with white and blue stripes because I asked for something different. And the ER staff who, on the eve of the shelter-in-place, took such incredible care of me when I fell on the back of my head, cracked the skin open, had a concussion, threw up on the gurney, and mumbled gibberish they pretended to understand.

    I know an HMO is only as good as your doctor, but I have been blessed with a treasure trove of incredible people, whenever I’ve had a problem, who really and truly cared about me, the person, more than my disease or injury. As warm and fuzzy as the story about Natasha is, it doesn’t surprise me one bit. (kudos to Dr. Romano, Dr. Thomason, Dr. McCarthy, Dr. Lam, and Dr. Abbot-Heckle and Dr, Batchelder (both deceased))

  4. What a beautiful and heartwarming story! Thank you to all our nurses for the amazing care they give to our patients everyday!

  5. Beautiful! Thank you, Natasha, for your kind heart! May you continue to allow your heart to Shine Bright!

  6. Thank you, Natasha, for your hard work and dedication to our beloved patients in this time. You ROCK!!!!!!!

    1. I worked as an RN at WCR for many years and Natasha was one of my managers. I am not one bit surprised at her acts of kindness. I saw it first hand while working with her.

  7. Thank you, Natasha! Stories like this give hope that if we or our loved ones are faced with this kind of horror, there are people who really care. Nurses are amazing human beings! I salute you all! Thank you

  8. Natasha:
    Thank you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s very comforting to know that we have angels working endlessly to speak up for those who aren’t able to speak for themselves.

  9. Thank you, Natasha, for reminding us how to care for each other! It takes a special person to see past the condition and see the patient and their family in moments of crisis. Happy Nurses Week!

  10. I am so impressed by such an act of compassion and kindness exhibited by our Nurse Manager Natasha! This truly warms my heart. Thanks for all you do.

  11. What an amazing story–thank you for sharing with us. It warms me to read stories of amazing people in KP like this, and even more so when it’s people I know like Nurse Natasha! Thank you for speaking up for what you know in your heart as the right thing to do.

  12. Natasha, that is just like you to make something wonderful happen for the next person. I’m just glad to know and have worked with such a wonderful and caring nurse.

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