Unity hospice nurse serving people facing end-of-life experiences
John Robinson will never forget the words of a gravely ill man that inspired him.
“He said ‘John, I don't feel like dying today,'” Robinson said. “That changed my life.
“I realized I wanted to make a difference in his life.”
Although the cancer-ridden man died two days later, his spirit lives on in Robinson.
A supervisor of nursing at a care facility in Massachusetts, he would stay after hours with residents who had grave illnesses.
“I made a decision this is what I have to do for the rest of my life,” said Robinson, who works in Monongahela and lives in Vanderbilt.
A native of Pittsfield, Mass., Robinson graduated from Berkshire Community College with an associate degree in nursing.
He came to southwestern Pennsylvania for a chance to work in hospice care. He was hired on the spot.
The company held the job for Robinson as he found a home and remodeled it. That home played an integral part in his life — and in the many lives he has touched.
Robinson and his wife, Bobbi, purchased a mid-19th century building known locally as the Unity schoolhouse and opened “Unity a Journey Home,” southwestern Pennsylvania's first residential hospice house. Each resident was granted at least one wish as part of the care and therapy he or she received.
In August 2007, the Robinsons created the nonprofit adult wish charity: Unity, A Journey of Hope.
The following year, Robinson became a hospice nurse for Amedisys Corp., a Baton Rouge, La.-based home care and hospice company. For many like Robinson, it is more than a job, it is a vocation honored in November during National Hospice Month.
With his trademark smile, Robinson said a sense of humor is beneficial to lift the spirits of those whose lives he affects daily.
“Every visit, we sit and talk,” Robinson said. “We share life stories; we joke. I don't remind you that you have a life-limiting illness. I sing. I pray with my patients.”
In reality, he is preparing patients and their families. That's what led to his book, “On My Journey Home.” Recently released, it is available at www.unityajourneyofhope.org.
The first 32 pages of the book are dedicated to “the end of life journey” and signs of symptoms of that journey.
There are books on hospice, Robinson explained, but none written from the patients' point of view.
“It's an accumulation of what my patients have told me over the last 12 years,” Robinson said.
The final pages are dedicated to Robinson's experiences as a hospice nurse.
“I speak of giving people hope and never giving up,” Robinson said.
He notes the example of Joan, who was 12 years old when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given just months to live. Her family led a nonstop prayer vigil for Joan, who is now 75.
He also writes of the “comfort angels,” loved ones who have died and who come back to provide comfort in a patient's final days. He cites the example of his mother-in-law, Donna Jean Black, who at 58 was diagnosed with end-stage cancer.
“She said who was there and was very explicit who was there,” Robinson said.
“Two days later, she ceased to breathe.”
Last year, Robinson was named Amedisys Hospice Caregiver of the Year for the northeast region. Employees at its Monongahela office nominated Robinson. He was one of 22 among 17,000 employees nationwide chosen by a nominating committee.
Robinson said he is driven by the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives.
“When you have a diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, the patients and their families are so overwhelmed,” Robinson said. “And to take them on that journey, to provide respect and dignity and knowledge – that's what gives me satisfaction. I get up every morning, and I can't wait to go to work.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Yesteryear journey follows familiar path to many newsmakers
- Crew Mission volunteers will decorate home of Rostraver family
- Hospital leaders brighten holidays for kids
- Finleyville man pleads guilty in federal court
- Monongahela paramedic dies in the line of duty
- Mon Valley communities put spotlight on Christmas season
- Hearings delayed for 3 men charged in Rostraver home invasion
- Mon Valley preparing for Small Business Saturday
- Fayette City in search of better times