Tom Bevitori is a man of words, but every now and then a picture says it better.
Bevitori, a 28-year-old singer/songwriter with Nevada City roots, wanted to honor the nurses that took good care of him at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, so he now wears a tattoo of a nurse — with a rose — on his arm.
“I was blown away by their compassion and honest love,” he said. “I really felt they cared for me and wanted me to get well. It was like suddenly I had all these sisters and mothers.”
His actual mother is Nevada City’s Lorraine Gervais, well known locally and beyond for her powerful vocal performances and the music shows she produces; she opened for Bill Cosby in Grass Valley just a few months ago, and has shared the stage with everyone from The Pointer Sisters to Pete Escavedo.
By his own account, Bevitori was cruising along and doing what young singer/songwriters do. He had moved to Portland and was singing folk, country, and rock ‘n’ roll with bands there. He was touring in Europe, and admits to living life fast and hard.
“I was having a good time,” he says. “I didn’t want anything to change.”
Then a new reality came along, known as Crohn’s Disease. It is a chronic disorder that causes inflammation and other issues along the intestinal tract. Its symptoms are painful and persistent.
Back in Portland, Bevitori said, “I got so sick it was impossible for me to do anything at all. Life hit me in the face and cut me deep. I saw death in front of me.”
By the end of 2013 he’d returned to Nevada City to stay with his mother and stepfather. In November, he entered Sierra Nevada Memorial for removal of a fistula abscess, and wound up in the first floor nursing unit.
That is where he was so overcome with the depth of caring that he wound up with tattoo artist Mischa Matulich at Classic Tattoo in Grass Valley.
“I told him I wanted a beautiful nurse with a rose, and he drew it up perfectly,” Bevitori said. “I loved those nurses so much, I’d never felt that kind of compassion before. Every single one was fantastic. I just wanted something to honor them and be a permanent remembrance for me of how low, low can be in my own life.”
Having hit that low, Bevitori is now making a serious effort to navigate life on a healthier path.
“I’m doing fantastic now,” he said.
He has changed his diet, quit drinking and smoking, and regularly attends local recovery meetings.
Meanwhile, he still visits the Sierra Nevada Memorial Wound Care Center for care of his surgical site and is active with his two current bands, Denver (country), and Beautiful Dudes (rock ‘n’ roll).
Kimberly Parker, executive director of the SNMH Foundation, said she’s seen many varieties of gratitude expressed by patients, but can’t remember another tattoo tribute.
“Acts of appreciation come in many forms,” she said, “From heartfelt cards, a testimonial, a handshake, or a hug — but most of all they come from people who want to give back in a meaningful way.”
The Foundation maintains a Grateful Patient program that enables individuals to honor nurses, doctors, and others. When a gift is made to this program, a note from the Foundation is sent to the recipient’s supervisor or the physician’s office, so staff can be notified personally.
Hospital employees are given a special lapel pin to wear, and recipients are recognized through Foundation and hospital publications.
In March, Doctors’ Day provides another opportunity for people to donate to the Foundation to honor their local physicians, Parker noted.
Individuals also show their appreciation by volunteering at the hospital. One former patient helped create the Comfort Cuisine Program, which provides nutritious meals to patients.
The Cancer Center bracelet program, managed by volunteers, has generated over $43,000, and peer volunteers in the Women’s Imaging Center share their time to help new patients with difficult diagnoses.
“People often think that only big gifts matter at a hospital,” Parker said. “While big gifts can be transformational, small- and medium-sized gifts can have a huge impact as well. One of the best ways to show appreciation is to be a positive voice in our community about the care you received.”
The permanent display of acknowledgment on Benvitori’s arm is a living example of this.
All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.