National Nurses United

National Nurse magazine July-August-September 2021

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Malone joked about how much time he spent with the two. "He would say, 'This is my gay life, hanging out with a woman and a 6- year-old,'" recalled Bjornsson. Malone made sure to return home regularly to the Midwest and his clients and family there. "He made it a point to see his mom and dad," said Dawn Malone. "Family was very important." In late January, Malone called Bjornsson and said he wasn't feel- ing well. Malone had received both of his vaccinations and he attributed his illness to complications from a recent diagnosis of borderline diabetes. When he went to the doctor, he tested positive for Covid and was hospitalized immediately. After several days, Malone was off oxygen and it looked like he would be able to leave the hospital. "He told me, 'Next time you come, I want your car parked in the front. You are going to take me home.'" said Bjornsson. But when she visited him again it was clear he was failing and she called Malone's family to come. His mother and sisters were able to see him one last time. "I swear he waited for us," said Mitchell. "I know he knew we were there with him. He kept looking back and forth at all of us like he couldn't believe we had come. He kept saying 'Mom, Mom, Mom' and my sister, Terry Joe's name. We held his hands and laughed and cried and told him we loved him." Malone died on Feb. 20, 2021. He was 57 years old. Cunningham said her brother was a fiercely independent man, one who cut his own path in life. "He beat to his own drum," said Cunningham, "He had goals and when he set his goals and mind to it, he just did it." —Rachel Berger Thomas Picchi, RN thomas picchi was naturally curious and surrounded himself with books. "He was always learning something," said his daughter, Amanda Picchi. "He had tons of different interests. He did a lot of reading." Whatever interests he had, he took them seriously and studied up on them. "He would always just say, 'If you are going to do some- thing you should do it right and not half way,'" said Amanda, a registered nurse herself. "He was my hero. We were very close. I was the only child and my mom passed away when I was young. It was just me and my dad." Thomas David Picchi was born Nov. 14, 1949, in Rockford, Ill. Picchi was a man who felt at home on the road. His first career was as a truck driver hauling goods all over the country. He met and mar- ried a fellow truck driver, and when he was 29, Amanda was born. "He was a great father who only showed me kindness and love," said Amanda. When she was just three, her mother passed away, and Picchi became a single father. He traded in the semis for school buses and city buses and devoted himself to raising his daughter. "He would do anything to help me and would drop everything if I needed him," remembered Amanda. By his daughter's estimation, Picchi was something of a thrill seeker, searching out roller coasters and amusement parks. He loved all kinds of cars and he loved to drive fast. He appreciated NASCAR and went every year to the Indy 500. But Picchi's true passion was planes. He learned to fly as a young man and kept up his license throughout his life. Ten years ago, he was able to realize a lifelong dream and buy himself his first plane, a cream and blue Piper Comanche 260B. "He enjoyed the freedom of flying and being able to just take off, head out, and go when he wanted," said Amanda. Picchi came to nursing in his 50s. He studied at Ellsworth Com- munity College in Iowa Falls and graduated in 2006. As a nurse, Picchi was the calm in the center of the storm. "I never saw the man get frazzled," said Amy Gutierrez, a regis- tered nurse who worked with Picchi at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. "If he had a mean patient, an upset doctor or a patient was crashing, he just went into action. He didn't get overly excited about anything. He just spoke with a very deep but soothing voice; you just knew when he spoke that everything was going to be fine." "He really liked his job, he found it very rewarding," recalled Amanda. When Covid-19 hit, Picchi took several weeks off as he was wor- ried that his age put him at greater risk for serious illness. When he came back to work, he was put into a unit where he was caring exclusively for Covid patients. Gutierrez says the union representative tried repeatedly to get Picchi moved into a clean unit, but the hospital refused to budge. Gutierrez says Picchi was very vigilant about infection control but the hospital had nurses reusing N95s and gowns. Amanda said her father had asked her how to purchase his own 3M respirator with a face shield, but she said he gave up the idea of buying one after the hospital told him he was not allowed to bring in his own PPE to work. "It is so frustrating, it cost him his life," said Amanda. "All he had to do was buy that and be allowed to wear it and he was not allowed to wear it." In December 2020, Picchi tested positive for Covid-19 and landed in the hospital the Sunday after Christmas. The last time Amanda spoke to her father he was optimistic to be out of the hospi- tal in a week or so. But his condition deteriorated rapidly and on Jan. 8, 2021, Thomas Picchi died at Desert Regional where he had been cared for by his fellow nurses and the doctors he had once worked beside. "I would just want people to remember him for his positive and kind attitude. He was a sensitive guy with a big heart," said Amanda. Picchi had dreamed of returning to the road again, this time as a travel nurse, so he could visit the national parks that he loved so much. In anticipation of this next chapter, he had purchased an RV and he was able to visit Sequoia National Park before he became ill. Now Amanda and her husband, also a nurse, are remodeling that RV and plan to set out to live the life her father had once planned for himself. It's a plan she believes her father would approve of. —Rachel Berger J U LY | A U G U S T | S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 1 W W W . N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G N A T I O N A L N U R S E 23 Thomas Picchi, RN and daughter Amanda

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