Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TING AND I, Tribute to Tina Su Cooper from Nurse Audrey Pottinger

When we won the insurance overnight nursing coverage dispute, we were able to hire overnight nurses. One of the first two I hired, Audrey Pottinger, RN, has shown the compassion, capability, and reliability that let me know Tina is in good care while I sleep. She writes:
I am blessed to be a part of a team entrusted with caring for a truly remarkable individual, Tina Cooper. Tina is simply one of the most caring, loving and appreciative persons I know. Her sincere concern for others is admirable and worthy of emulation.

Despite her disabilities she finds ways to show her friends and family members that she cares. She remembers their birthdays and ensures that the day is recognized with a greeting card, a phone call or both. Tina frequently inquires about the well-being of my family. Since we both have two sons who were born seven years apart, we enjoy sharing about their accomplishments and current events.

It’s such a pleasure to witness the ongoing loving relationship between her and her spouse. For them, every day is Valentine’s Day. Upon meeting the Coopers, my older son remarked that he hopes to find someone with whom he could share such a loving relationship. I pray he does.

I am greeted warmly each time I arrive, and she never fails to thank me several times during the shift for the care she receives. This makes me feel special and appreciated even though I know that every other nurse is treated in that manner.

Instead of being bitter, Tina chooses to love, to care and to enjoy the life she has. It’s a choice all should emulate. It’s a choice I am learning to make.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

TING AND I, Tribute to Tina Su Cooper from Nurse Mary Wilkinson

Mary Wilkinson, RN, has been with us for six years. She has given Tina loving care, her warmth and attention to detail permeating all that she does, mixed with her upbeat updates on her three children, who are at the center of her life. She writes:
I first met Tina Cooper in March of 2005. One of the first things I noticed about Tina was her warm, caring smile. The second thing I noticed was all the medical equipment surrounding her that she must live with everyday just to survive. And when I started working as her nurse back in 2005, I really didn’t know how long she would survive. Maybe a few months, I thought to myself, or maybe a year. I had no idea at the time, but I knew in my heart I would do whatever I could as a nurse to help her live the best life she could at that point.

So, time went on, and I learned quickly from speaking with Tina in our little chats that she was indeed someone very special and truly a kind, caring woman with a great heart that was also full of empathy for others. So surprising to see at first–how empathetic Tina would be to other people’s tragedies when the fact was that her situation in itself was tragic, but she never once complained about it. She was and is a true fighter—a very strong-willed individual with a heart of gold.

I have grown to love Tina as a dear friend. Tina and I have enjoyed good conversations together. Through the years, we have laughed often at funny movies. I discovered early on that Tina was a very well-educated, smart woman, but I was also very pleased to see that she shared in my sense of humor, and we would often enjoy each other’s funny stories. After all, laughter is the best medicine, right?

Anyway, it is always wonderful to see Tina smile. She smiles in the face of tragedy. And it can make anyone forget just how tragic the situation really is. I am deeply sorry for what MS has done to her physically. But it has never damaged her amazing spirit. Tina is truly an amazing, wonderful person and I am grateful and honored to be a part of her life. God keep her safe and warm. She is a living angel.

Monday, May 20, 2013

TING AND I, Tribute to Tina Su Cooper from Nurse Diane Beggin

Diane Beggin, RN, joined us in November 2004 and has served the longest with us of any nurse. Tina’s health was so compromised then that we knew each day was a miracle. Diane’s exceptional intelligence, her dedication to Tina’s care, and her outstanding attention to detail have made her first among equals on our staff. She writes about the impact Tina has had on her:
Years ago, in November 2004 when I started working at the Coopers’, I anticipated it would be a short-lived position. Tina was rather delicate and overcoming a long hospitalization. Her prognosis was guarded, and that was being optimistic. But I was recuperating from a cervical spinal injury that left me unable to work in the CCU—for the time being. So this seemed to be a perfect position for me. I could use my critical care experience to care for Tina while I prepared myself to return from the “disabled list.” I never anticipated that, while Tina would thrive, my progress remained static and I could never return to the unit. As I look back, that “temporary” job at the Cooper’s and Tina became blessings in disguise. And for more than one reason.

The days passed to months to years. During this time, Tina and I laughed and joked how our lives had similarities. For instance, her sons are named Ted and Phil. I have a Tom and a Bill, and it turns out that their personalities are as similar as their names. We’d reminisce about Chicago, our love of Hyde Park, the museums and the terrible weather but glorious Christmas window decorations that the city presents during the season. We’d discuss everything from time-worthy news issues to complete nonsense. Our dreams and hopes for our children were imagined. Our memories of our youth were retold. We chatted about everything and nothing. But we also maintained our own identities and opinions. Neither of us always agreed with the other–and we weren’t shy about stating such. Truly, little by little we were becoming friends.

I still find it remarkable, as I did long ago, that Tina remains so psychologically and emotionally vital and strong despite everything she cannot do or cannot experience. Through her I believe she taught me how to deal with my personal inabilities and disabilities… to accept myself. And I thought I was the strong one–her nurse. In retrospect, my patient has become my healer.

First and foremost, Tina is my patient. But I can also state that I love this beautiful, intelligent, strong, determined, proud—and yes, humorous—woman. We still hold our own unique opinions and feelings. Sometimes we don’t always agree, yet we continue to chuckle seven years later. We certainly have a personal relationship and not merely a professional one. And I treasure the history we share.

The Cooper family is my family–every single one of them–because of Tina. But what makes this relationship so special is that Tina also wanted to be, and is, a part of the Beggin family. I feel honored to be loved by her.

Funny how my misfortune long ago became an opportunity and gift that could never have been envisioned. From Tina, the Coopers and this “interim” position, I have had the opportunity to have a satisfying nursing assignment. But I gained so much more. I have learned self-tolerance. I have a developed a cherished friendship and another family. I have the luxury of caring for someone for whom I truly feel affection. And I hope this “temporary” job continues for a very long time. Tina and I still have more chuckling to do….

Friday, May 17, 2013

TING AND I, Tribute to Tina Su Cooper from Nurse Terry Bush

As she explains below, Terry Bush, LPN, was hired in early February as an over-qualified home health aide. She was a nurse who needed a time-out from the stress of nursing. Shortly thereafter, Tina had an MS attack with an accompanying aspiration pneumonia that nearly killed her. Terry became our on-the-spot representative in Tina’s hospital room for much of each day. When Tina came home, Terry came with her and worked with us as a nurse until the fall. We were delighted to have her, fell in love with her, and missed her greatly when she had to leave because she was allergic to the flu shot proteins. (We enforce our flu shot requirements without exception.) She remains a dear friend.

Working as a private duty nurse with ventilator-dependent patients can take its toll, emotionally and physically. Making the decision to work as a home health aide for a while, I answered an ad in a local newspaper. The listing, which requested someone to help with cooking, cleaning, and personal care of a woman, sounded just like what I was looking for.

I called and was scheduled to meet Tina and Doug Cooper the following evening. I was informed that Tina had MS with limited mobility, but fully capable in other areas. Unexpectedly, Doug asked if I would give Tina a full bed bath while I was there, not as a part of the interview, but as a favor. I agreed, although nervous, never having met them.

The next evening I met two of the nicest people in the world. They were polite, considerate, and welcomed me into their home. Spending personal time with Tina was special as we talked about our families and ourselves. I felt truly blessed when I was asked to come back.

Tina was sweet, and we became friends almost immediately. We shared stories, listened to music, and laughed together, all while I performed the duties I was hired to do. This was just the restful break I was seeking–but not for long.

One week later, Tina was lying in a hospital bed with pneumonia. Doug spent day and night by her bedside, hoping the doctors’ predictions were incorrect. Not wanting to leave Tina alone, but needing his own rest, Doug asked if I minded changing my position as home health aide to Tina’s private assistant in her hospital room. Although this was closer to nursing than I had been wanting, I already cared too deeply for this special lady to walk away.

I don’t recall the medical details, but I do remember the tears in our eyes as Doug and I watched Tina’s health worsen day by day. She was not expected to live through the night several times. But God had other plans. After weeks of hopes and disappointments, Tina returned home, dependent on her ventilator for every breath of life.

More nurses were hired, and round-the-clock care had begun. Doug was not a nurse, by license, but he was honored and respected as head nurse by all of us. He scheduled, provided medical supplies, and became mediator between doctor and patient. But the care he provided did not end there. His love for his wife went much deeper … so much deeper.

I had heard the love story of Tina and Doug. How they met in college and fell in love, how life separated them from each other, and how miraculously they were reunited many years later. Although their lives had taken different paths, they were destined to be together. This lasting love and devotion for each other sustains them today.

Tina trusted the ability of the nurses as professionals, but her ultimate faith and trust was in her husband. She knew he was overseeing every aspect of her care. He kept her aware of changes in her health, doctors’ orders, and staff. He worked right beside the nurses and could perform any and all duties himself.

He provided Tina with a wheelchair and a lift to transfer her from the bed to the wheelchair and back again. Every day Tina sat in the cheerful kitchen to visit with him, or on the front porch facing the lake and flower bed. Tina felt Doug’s love surrounding her in everything he did for her, in the words he spoke to her, and most of all, in the looks of compassion and devotion he bestowed on her.

Being Tina’s nurse was a blessing–a double blessing. Performing medical procedures and care is what I enjoy, and doing it for such a loving person makes it more enjoyable. (I guess my week-long break as home health aide was all I was meant to have.) Tina was very fragile when she first came home. Her needs were many–ventilator-dependent, unable to speak, tube-fed, unable to eat or drink by mouth, needing physical therapy to keep her joints pliable (causing pain no matter how gently it was done), and given medication on schedule day and night, interrupting the little sleep she was able to find amidst all the new noises and activity in her room.

While her body remained fragile, Tina’s spirit grew strong. (Her complaining consisted of a frown on her face.) She withstood the changes in her health condition with the attention she received from the nurses, each one caring for her as a friend as well as a patient.

Tina received compassion from all around her–staff, friends, family–but she gave back so much more. Tina demonstrated her compassion for each person in her smiles, her listening ear, and in her obvious enjoyment of one’s company.

My getting to know Tina is one of the greatest blessings of my life. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity given to me to be part of Tina and Doug’s lives and to have them be part of mine.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

TING AND I, Tributes to Tina Su Cooper from Friends


Tina developed several lasting friendships at Cornell. Judy and Tina’s friendship has lasted for nearly fifty years, a tribute to their loyalty and empathy. Judy and Matt Sonfield and Deanne and Gerry Gitner were the special friends Tina invited to her second wedding, June 1984. And they were the friends who visited her during her nearly fatal hospitalization in 2004.


I’ve known Tina since freshman year at Cornell. We roomed together as sophomores—the year Tina and Doug became totally involved with one another and the year I met Matt, my future husband. It was a wonderful time for both of us.
At the end of our sophomore year, both Doug and Matt graduated, and life changed for all of us—with Tina going to London and Doug and Matt going on to work and graduate school, respectively. By senior year I was married and living in Cambridge. After Tina married and moved to Chicago, we didn’t see one another for many years.
Then everything changed. Tina was diagnosed with MS, and Doug came back into her life. Matt and I, along with Deanne and Gerry Gitner, attended their warm, intimate wedding. At the wedding luncheon Tina’s father made a beautiful toast to their enduring love.
For a number of years, while Tina’s MS was under control, we were able to meet for dinners, attend a college reunion, and they joined us at our son’s Bar Mitzvah.
You could easily dwell on Tina’s illness and on her constant battle over these many years, but Tina and Doug’s romance during college and their coming together years later is the love story that I like to share.



Ruth and Mal Goldberg, like Wendy and Zane, have been among our very closest friends since the days in Millwood, NY, when we could get together easily. Now living part of each year in Florida, Ruth writes:
Tina was and has always been a sweet, loving and giving person. She has been a very good friend to me. We used to share many happy moments together. I loved getting together on those great New Year’s Eve celebrations as well as sitting quietly and talking. When Tina began to have trouble driving, I took her to church every week. We became spiritually connected, and we will be forever. I feel blessed that she has been such a loving friend to me.

Friday, May 10, 2013

TING AND I, Tribute to Tina Su Cooper from Friend Deanne Gitner

Deanne Gebell Gitner and Tina formed a strong friendship at Cornell. Both were from upstate rather than “the city,” and each was a member of a minority group (Jewish and Chinese, respectively). They have remained warm friends during the nearly fifty years since they first met. Deanne writes:

Tina lived next door to me in Dickson Hall our freshman year, and she shared a double with our friend Maddi Daub in our sophomore year. The Dickson dorm was all single rooms and only women. It was a time when women students were fighting for their rights. For example, the women’s dorms had curfews when the semester began, and no curfews when the semester ended a few months later. I do not know how much these things affected Tina, but they may have.

Tina met Doug in her freshman year, but Tina told us (her corridor mates) that she needed to find a six-foot-tall man from China, from northern China, to keep her parents happy. We felt we understood her problem, as we were all told to find a Jewish boy and that our parents would give us trouble if we did not.

There were only two Asian women in our class in 1962, one of whom was Tina. Her parents sent her away for her junior year to London to study and, probably, to get her away from Doug.

Tina and I lived in adjoining Balch Hall rooms for our senior year. When Tina returned to Cornell in 1966, she began to fraternize with the few Asian students who were at Cornell then. Doug had graduated. Tina kept up her search for a tall, handsome Chinese boy. She had been noticed by a group of Taiwanese graduate students (men) who wanted to get to know this beautiful Asian woman who studied all the time in Olin Library. One found a unique way of getting to meet her, making her the only person I knew who came home from the library with an armful of flowers. It was too late. Doug had already claimed her heart!

Friday, May 3, 2013

TING AND I, Tribute to Tina Su Cooper from Friend Wendy Garfein

Wendy and Zane Garfein have been among our very closest friends since we met them in 1987. As part of her tribute to Tina, she recalls a particularly moving conversation they had.
For Tina on her 67th birthday:

I met Tina and Doug in 1987, the summer we moved to Ledgewood Commons. Their son, Phil, became the link to our two families. I first met Phil and Doug in the swimming pool, and then later met Tina as Phil and our son, Ben, became friends.

When I first met Tina, I was instantly impressed with her graciousness and beauty. She was very welcoming to their home and invited Ben to share play time with Phil often. It was on one such occasion, when Ben and Phil were playing, that Tina and I were talking over coffee and tea, that Tina shared some of her life with me.

She reminisced about meeting Doug in college at Cornell and falling in love as a young woman with him. They had wanted to marry, but Tina’s parents did not approve of her marrying an Occidental. They sent her to England to study [for her junior year] and would not permit her to marry Doug. Tina complied with her parents’ wishes, not wanting to disappoint them and respecting the traditional values of her parents. Subsequently, both she and Doug married other people.

Their history resumed some years later after Doug and his first wife divorced and Doug located Tina, who was living in Chicago with her Asian husband and two boys. [He wrote her a brief letter about the break-up of his marriage.] It was not until about a year later that they met in person in Chicago. Both were struck by the bond which they still felt for one another.

It was at this juncture that Tina and Doug decided they wanted to be together. I will not go into the details of this decision, because I know that Doug will be detailing this information in his story about them. However, I will say that Tina did not make the decision lightly and was terribly conflicted years later when talking about it, because her first husband would not grant the divorce without her promising to leave Ted behind. When telling her story, Tina wept; and I wept too, because I understood that this was not what she wanted to do. For her then, it was a matter of her physical and emotional survival, as well as her love for Doug.

Sitting at her kitchen table and reliving her decision as she talked, Tina remembered all the struggles she had gone through. She seemed to be ashamed of herself for making the decision to survive because it meant leaving Ted behind. Years did not diminish her sorrow and guilt over this decision. It was at that point I shared my personal story and my own sorrow and guilt over my own decision years earlier in my life. Self-acceptance has been difficult for both of us to achieve, but Tina’s sharing with me, and enabling me to share with her, helped us both.

Tina, by sharing her love story, showed me that day the qualities which I admire in her to this day: her courage, compassion, and integrity. I felt the courage that she needed to make the decision to start a new life and to leave behind her little boy, Ted. I knew that leaving him behind, she felt that Ted must feel abandoned. Her compassion for Ted and her desire to show him her love was evident to me. It was not so easy for a young Ted to comprehend, however. I knew that with time and maturity, Ted would understand her decision and grow to know his mother, as I do: as a woman with the courage, compassion and integrity to live that love each day.

I told her that then, hoping it would help her. Today she continues to be that same person. She lives a daily life today which I know of no other person could easily bear, but which brings her happiness and love, knowing she can still share in her husband and children’s lives. For her husband and children, her choice to live today has given them as much or more.

Her daily courage has been an inspiration to me, her compassion even now for others’ suffering always amazes me, and I continue to find her a woman of great integrity and abounding love for others.

Happy Birthday, my friend!