Gift Helps Hospice Patients Find Their Rainbow
by Kenyon Kemnitz
Pictured are Rainbow social worker Sarah Phalin, Rainbow nurse manager Jody Goodle, Tashina Dunham, Rainbow Inpatient Center (IPC) Manager Tamara Vogel, and Rainbow CNA Taylar Zirbel all holding suncatchers that were donated by Tashina to the IPC in honor of her late fiancé, Paul Hinrichs.
Even during Paul Hinrichs’s darkest days, besides the love and support of his family and friends, suncatchers provided some much-needed light and solace as he was battling colon cancer. There were some days that chemotherapy treatments took a physical toll on him, and he struggled to even get out of bed. But it was the suncatchers that gave him a glimpse of the beautiful world around him, allowing him to catch some rainbows when times were tough. He was able to get lost in a dazzling array of colors and was able to forget about things for a little while.
“Rainbows are so special, and they teach us that even after the storms come something beautiful,” said Paul’s fiancée, Tashina Dunham. “Paul went through so much hard stuff in his adult life. He always looked for the positive. I think it is one of the best lessons he could teach everyone around him. Keep pushing. Keep looking for the beautiful rainbows.”
Once Tashina found out Paul had one suncatcher, soon more and more kept popping up around his house. Eventually, he ended up with quite a collection. Every store they went to together they had to see if they had any suncatchers.
“When he got sick, I wanted to make him smile more and I just kept buying him all the ones I could find so he could smile more and more on the days that hurt the most for him,” Dunham said.
Tashina and Paul.
When Paul passed away in February 2023, Tashina thought she could do something to help other Rainbow Hospice Care patients. Even though Paul never stayed at the inpatient center in Johnson Creek, Tashina decided to donate suncatchers to the facility. One suncatcher for each of the eight patient rooms. When they hang in front of a window, the suncatchers go to work, creating a mesmerizing effect of ‘dancing rainbows.’
“I knew it was meant to be because eight was a lucky number for both of us. I hope that when the person sitting in the room is tired, scared, or feeling helpless they see they can see that rainbow reflecting and remember to smile,” Dunham said.
“I think they will provide peace and tranquility and will brighten (literally) their days and bring some happiness to them when they need it most,” said Rainbow Inpatient Center Manager Tamara Vogel. “It may also remind them a little bit of being at home.”
When she dropped them off at the IPC, several members of Paul’s patient care team showed up to greet her, culminating in an emotional reunion. They loved hearing Tashina share some stories of Paul during happier times and in his final days.
“To hear how their relationship has impacted her life even now after he is gone and the little things, she is doing to remember him and honor his memory gives me chills,” said Rainbow Nurse Case Manager Jody Goodle. “She is changing the views on what hospice is designed to be.”
Tashina hadn’t seen them since Paul’s short stay on hospice, but she didn’t forget them. The compassionate care they showed for him was inspiring, especially during a time when her heart was breaking.
“You remember the feeling of having to reach out to them when you were at your lowest point watching your person leaving this world,” Dunham said. “After hugging them you immediately felt the warmth they bring. Paul had the best team. His family and I couldn’t be more thankful for all those ladies and their kind beautiful souls.”
Tashina hopes the suncatchers can bring some comfort and peace to patients and families in their end-of-life journey like they did Paul.
“I want to carry on his legacy by hoping when anyone is having a bad day and thinks they can’t push through they can look at the rainbow and smile,” Dunham said. “Just like he always did.”
“The light beams off the walls and catches you by surprise when they start to spin or move and it can’t help but catch your attention,” Goodle said.