A patient nears death, and deer appear. A favorite bird alights atop the patio rail. At Solvay Hospice House, nature’s extraordinariness seems somehow ordinary. Nevertheless, when I talked with Kevin Rodlund, Solvay Hospice House Nurse Manager, about these stories, I was a little skeptical.
Solvay Hospice House is beautifully situated on nine wooded acres in Duluth Heights. Overfed Eastern grey squirrels, cottontail rabbits and black-capped chickadees, all common Minnesota species, wander and flit about seemingly oblivious to the humans nearby.
“We have a resident doe,” says Kevin. “She gives birth in the same area every year.” Last year, Solvay staff and patients watched as she delivered her fawn atop the knoll just outside the home. Kevin smiles. He seems happy here.
Kevin joined the Solvay team in 2015. He’d been an Essentia Health oncology nurse manager for nine years, but felt moved to learn more about hospice. While he hadn’t intentionally planned to work at Solvay, he accepted an interim manager job. And then he decided to stay. “The staff here are amazing. And seeing what this place does for families––families get to do what they need to do. They become families again. That’s the real story of Solvay.”
Still, Kevin admits, the animals are part of the story, too. Birds do seem to ebb and flow depending on patients’ desires, and deer are drawn to certain people as they near the end of life. Hospice staff from throughout the nation agree. Something magnificent, something beautiful, yet inexplicable happens at hospice homes.
“I think there is something,” says Kevin. “I really do.”