My friend and former co-worker Mel Tabbert passed away in his sleep early Wednesday in his sleep after a long period in a nursing home. He was 68, and we'd been friends since I started working in the customer service department of TLA.
But during that time, he was having serious health issues. In the summer 2007 I had to go through some major stress a few weeks with him. I'd been doing Home Health care for him since the previous summer, when he was essentially a shut in. Mel got a Sheriff's Notice on his apartment door on a Weds statting that he had till Monday to be out of his place or he'd be forcibly removed. His apartment was basically a bedroom in an old building that is right near city hall, since renovated into condos. His itty-bity room had an asking price of over 100,000. He'd gotten behind on his rent, couldn't work, couldn't even leave the room (he had been outside once since the previous August) and needed serious help. Of course, he was in a total panic.
With the help I've been giving him since '06, connections at the Pennsylvania Council On Aging got him an emergency bed at a Nursing Home. We had to call them and insist that Mel's paperwork get fast tracked or he'd be on the street. I assisted him with his move that Monday morning. But he was still under a great deal of stress. I’d been taking suitcases of what few possessions he has left out over the weekend and giving him a shoulder to cry on...there were a lot of tears and hand holding. He was very frightened and rang my cell phone several times a day.
He needed 24 Hour professional care (something I am just not qualified for) and a good bed, which the nursing home provided. I signed him onto my cell-phone program to give him a lifeline to the outside world. I would visit every couple of weeks or so, take him movies (I got his a cheap DVD player) and snacks. Since he could not leave his room without assistance, I often had to play patient advocate for him. (He had only one sister; she is disabled and lives in MN.)
Last week he was having problems breathing and was taken to a hospital where they did a "stuffing" for a sinus issue. When he came back to the hospital Thursday, I dropped in and brought him some throat lozenges. we had a good talk, I showed him some of the latest pictures of the grand-girls and Sophie Cat, and as I was leaving he told me I was his guardian angel. I gave him a hug and told him "I love ya, buddy," like I usually did.
He did not wake up Wednesday. He "coded" in his bed and the staff called 911 while performing CPR. While Mel was still taken to the University of Penn via ambulance, he never revived. He was declared at the UoP emergency room. He was 68, which just seems too young these days, but more than anything else, he's no longer suffering. The nursing home let me gather his things, but there wasn't much. What I took were mostly things I'd taken to him over the years, some Military certificates (he was in the Navy during Vietnam) and a few wall posters he'd had. The staff was used to seeing me and told me they all liked Mel for being funny and generous, and we all shared a few cries. I have his Santa on my desk. I'm going to need some memories.