Kim Tan never imagined that someone as kind and thoughtful as her beloved husband, Barry Joe, could be diagnosed with advanced metastatic cancer, nor that it would progress so quickly. Although the circumstances were difficult, their family’s palliative care experience was made as good as it could be thanks to the extraordinary Covenant staff at Unit 43 in the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.
To thank the staff for the compassionate care they provided to Barry and his family during his final days, Kim coordinated a generous $5,000 family donation to Covenant Foundation in memory of her late husband through the Make a Dream Come True (Lion Society), of which Barry was once the director.
“Barry would have been proud to support future patients and help them experience the same level of outstanding care that he received,” said Kim.
Sadly, Barry’s last day with his family was April 23, 2023, but his legacy lives on through his family’s generous gift in his memory.
Below, please enjoy a heartwarming tribute to Barry and his legacy, as told by his wife, Kim, and his sister, Marnie.
Barry was a kind, thoughtful, gentle, caring, and selfless individual. He took good care of his family and his friends. Everyone who knew him loved him. He was the glue that kept his family together. Even though he did not have any children of his own, he loved my children like they were his own. All five of my grandchildren adored him. Barry took good care of himself as well; he took his vitamins and had regular check-ups with his doctor. In his younger years, he ran the Jasper-Banff relays for eight years.
On February 18, 2023, Barry was diagnosed with advanced metastatic cancer, which shocked us all. Although the disease progressed very quickly, Barry faced his diagnosis with much courage. After one month of home care under the palliative program, he was admitted to Unit 43 at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital – what I would call the “Cadillac” of palliative care units.
On the first day he was admitted, we were naively hopeful that Barry’s symptoms would improve so he could go home. But a few days later, Barry and I came to terms that Unit 43 would be his final home on Earth before he went home with the Lord. Although we were aware of how busy Unit 43 was day in and day out, the healthcare staff treated Barry like he was the ONLY patient in the unit. Barry was very thankful and appreciative of the attention he received, medically and spiritually.
Coughing was Barry’s most challenging symptom to manage. Medicine and popsicles brought him some comfort to soothe the coughing. Barry was very pleased to be able to get all the popsicles he desired while at Unit 43. I couldn’t top up the popsicle supply fast enough! He tried all the colours and blue was his favourite.
We were both grateful for the many health professionals at Unit 43 who made Barry’s days very memorable. Imelda would serenade him with Barry Manilow songs, and Chaplains Christine and Wilson visited us and prayed for us. Despite not feeling well, Barry remained positive until the end. Nurse “Pandemonium” was a huge part of the reason for Barry’s positivity. She was tough yet kind as she ensured Barry got enough rest as his health declined. Even though Barry was receiving numerous injections of medications throughout the day, he remained kind, calm and grateful to those around him who were giving him care and visiting him.
Even before he was admitted, Barry was familiar with Unit 43 because he had visited friends and family there in the past. After experiencing the excellent care at Unit 43 for himself, Barry wanted to support the unit so that future patients would benefit from the care as well. It takes special individuals to demonstrate great compassion to patients living the last days of their lives. The Covenant staff at Unit 43 were unique in that way, demonstrating compassion, kindness, gentleness, and understanding at all levels.
Sadly, Barry took his last breath on April 23, 2023. Barry touched many lives and enriched all those who knew him. He is greatly missed by all who knew and loved him. I will be forever grateful to the Covenant staff who took care of him in his last days.
- Kim Tan, Barry’s wife
As our parents were aging, Barry would always go the extra mile to ensure their comfort. He would cut my father’s hair, trim his nails and encourage him to do squats to help with his strength and balance. He would dye my mother’s hair. Without fail, he treated our parents with the utmost respect in word and deed.
Barry was always the person who would help others and give of himself. It was difficult for him to be the person being cared for, but the staff made him feel so comfortable. When it was Barry’s turn to be on the receiving end, I was glad he was cared for by the very best. All the staff were so kind to everyone from our large family who were there for most of the day. A nursing student was especially memorable; his youthful energy and optimism brightened our days. When this student talked to me, I felt like I was the only person in the room. I was also grateful to be able to sleep in the Family Room as often as I wanted to stay close to Barry. Thank you to everyone on Unit 43 who made our family’s experience so comfortable.
- Marnie, Barry’s sister
In partnership with generous donors like Barry’s family, our foundation funds advancements that make a tremendous difference for palliative patients and their families. Last year alone, our foundation invested over $50,000 to support palliative staff education and provide specialized programs, such as a legacy program that enables patients and their loved ones to process and memorialize their experience through art. Together, we’re enhancing care and comfort for patients in palliative care and their families when they need it most.
Our heartfelt thanks to Kim and Marnie for sharing this beautiful tribute to Barry. Our thanks also go to the extraordinary staff at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital Unit 43 who continue to amaze us all with their boundless compassion and care that goes the extra mile. Their kind words are a testament to the Covenant staff who provide exceptional care when it’s needed the most. Our foundation is grateful for Barry’s family’s generosity, and the support of all our donors – together, we’re transforming care for palliative patients.
Story arranged by Jackie Fowler
Many donors choose to donate because of the exceptional care they or a loved one received at a Covenant site. If you would like to thank those who made a difference to you and continue to directly impact those you care about, please give today.
Read more stories about donor impact at Palliative Care Unit 43 at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital