Riding high on a bubble bath

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The Pima County Fair may have started this week, but the best ride in the county on Friday morning was in the Papago Building at Tucson Medical Center. That’s where Tonya Swanson was gently hoisted off a gurney by a Hoyer lift and set into a warm bubble bath complete with soothing music, fresh-cut flowers and candlelight.

Swanson, 42, was admitted to TMC this past Monday as a result of complications from metastasized breast cancer. Her mother had been caring for her at home, where Swanson has been bed-bound since March.

“I’ve been waiting since Feb. 17 to take a bath,” she told the half dozen people assembled to help her.

Before being transferred from the acute-care unit to Peppi’s House, TMC’s inpatient hospice facility, Swanson expressed her wish to have a bath. When Hospice staff heard her request, they jumped into action to make it happen.

“I can’t tell you how responsive everyone was,” said Amy Olson, RN. “We must have made 25 calls and not a single person said ‘no.’ ”

It was a true team effort.

Calls went out to Employee Health, which now occupies the building, to take over the bathroom with the appropriate equipment.

“John Corbit, our plumber, got the water working and got hot water to the bathroom for us,” said TMC Hospice manager, Kelly Oursler, RN. “This morning, early, he picked flowers on the campus and put them in a vase in the bathroom. He came back when she asked for more time and added more hot water to the tub.”

Derrell Blair and Jim Wellman from Plant Services coordinated getting the bathroom cleaned and in working order. Housekeeper Maria Parra de Ruiz made sure the bathtub sparkled, added flowers to the bouquet and laid out a lace tablecloth. Transporters Tyrell Hinzman and Dean Sandvold provided a smooth ride to and from building as well as ensuring a safe and comfortable transfer into and out of the tub. Hospice staff found bubbles, battery-powered candles and a fluffy pink towel.

Swanson, formerly a nanny, was all smiles as she sunk into the tub, the jet action creating an overflow of bubbles … and emotions.

“This is just the best thing that could have happened,” said Swanson, who stayed in the tub for more than an hour.

Outside the room, staff laughed and shed tears, knowing how much this meant to their patient.

“We heard that she said she’d rather have a bubble bath than see her dog,” said Nicole Ralston, RN.

Not to worry, though, she won’t have to make a choice. Peppi’s House welcomes four-legged visitors. According to her mother, Rose, Swanson’s dog and cat will be spending time with Tonya.

Looks like Peppi’s House has it all over the 4-H exhibits at the fair, too.


  1. Oh My Gosh. Seeing this just gave me goose bumps. I can feel the love eminating from the staff and the happiness from Tonya. You all at the hospital are truely angels and deserve some thing wonderful to happen in your life for doing this small thing that meant so much to this wonderful person. She is also an angel.

  2. Thank you so much for the care you are giving to my Aunt. I’m so happy she’s getting the pampering she deserves!

  3. This is so awesome! Words cannot express the flood of emotions that such a wonderful act have brought! So glad Tonya has such caring people to take care of her! She deserves to be pampered! Her Mom has done such an awesome job to this point glad she is getting to see her daughter enjoy some special things! Ty to all who helped make this happen!

  4. The staff at TMC showed compassion and dedication to Tonya and granted her, her wish, I am so proud of all that took part in this special event.

  5. Stacey Yeggy says:

    Thank you all for taken such good care of tonya. I know the bubble bath meant the world to her and to see the smile on her face means the world to her friends and family.

  6. May God bless each and every one of you. I wish I could be there to hug you all. Thank you so much for all you do.

  7. Mary Joyce says:

    Oh my Goodness, you got a great bubble bath. HUgs

  8. The people who do hospice work do it for moments like this…to see those smiles and know they are making a difference. God bless you all!

  9. Dawn Armstrong says:

    Even though, I no longer work with these awesome people, I continue to be inspired by their compassion and their work! Love to the patients and the staff!

  10. Cathy N. says:

    Thank you TMC hospice and staff and to all who made this happen. It was great to see Tonya and Rose smile again. Thank you for all you do, and Rose is my hero.

  11. Kelley Rose says:

    You are all true blessing. You’ve made the impossible possible. I hope each person who made this bath possilbe will be blessed as many times as there were bubbles.To see my best friend smile means the world to me. Thank you.

  12. Anna Banana says:

    Wow!! Did this story ever bring tears to my eyes!!!! Tonya is very blessed to be taken such good care of.. She has been in my life for more than 20 years, and I believe that I have been the blessed one in our FRIENDSHIP!.. She has always been such a giver, with an amazing heart.. Thank you for for “GIVING” to her, as she has done for everyone else that she knows! With all that she is going through, she has kept her faith, her strength, and her dignity, It is so wonderful to see her being pampered…She is my true inspiration, and even though she is hundreds of miles away, she is always close to my heart!

  13. kathy underwood says:

    This is heavenly and you all are angels on earth. God Bless you all

  14. What a wonderful bunch of folks to make this happen. It touched my heart. Blessings to all of you. Tonya is in good care.

  15. Jon Langejans says:

    Peppi’s House and their staff are such beautiful people. They took fabulous care of my father in his last days. Top notch staff and volunteers.

  16. Catherine C says:

    The staff at TMC is incredible! You are all truly extending God’s love to my sweet friend Tonya! May God bless each and every one who has made this dream a reality! To see her smile and look so comfy means the world to me…Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  17. Love to see her big smile in those luxurious bubbles!

  18. My Aunt Tonya is so lucky to have such great care. It makes me so happy to see her getting what she wanted.

  19. This is why I am proud to work here. This is what nursing is about and caring for our patients from all the staff. Our hospice is a shining star.

  20. Ronnie Bell says:

    I have 2 daughters that went through breast cancer tx, this was very moving. I’m sure she enjoyed it thoroughly, such joy on her face. I will add her to my prayers. And God Bless those involved in her care.

  21. This was so amazing. All of you are angels for taking care of her. I’m a hospice volunteer myself and I know what a simple gift like this means to someone. Thank you for caring for my friend.

  22. Rhoda Cummings says:

    It was an honor to have been a part of the “Riding High On A Bubble Bath” experience.I was the PCT in attendence and selected by Peppis House, Manager, Kelly Ousler, to assist with patient Tonya Swanson’s bubble bath on April 20th 2012. Although Tonya was in for a Spa Day fit for a “QUEEN”, those of us who were privlidged to have volunteered our time to make her bath as luxurious as possible, were honored and humbled by the trust and assurance which Tonya demonstrated to us. I would like to express with all my heart, how I am so blessed to work at TMC with employees who are so dedicated and loyal as to makingTonyas day so special. You as well as my fellow co-workers, the volunteers at Peppis House, management, the administration personelle and of course our dear patient’s like Tonya and her supportive and loving family, and devoted friends…May I give YOU my appreciation of serving and working with you. In addendum, may I ask permission to share this heart-warming story on my FaceBook page to share with friends and family in hopes to inspire and encourage others as I myself was and currently still am. Thank-You!

    • Rhoda — you are an amazing caregiver. The tenderness and compassion you show all your patients, not just Tonya, is appreciated by all. This is a story not just about an a really special woman, but also about the care and devotion provided by you and the staff at TMC Hospice. Tonya gave us permission to share her story last month, and I helped her push it out on her Facebook page as well as Tucson Medical Center’s page. Please, feel welcome to do the same.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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