They had come so far, literally and figuratively. They were sick and needed help.
But their minds were on an important passenger who had no idea what was going on.
Thankfully, Buck and Sandy Jolley came to the right place and found the right people at St. Luke’s Elmore.
In August, the couple, who had found one another after decades apart, both went to the emergency department after driving up from Texas. While they were treated, St. Luke’s team members took care of their cat, Greystoke, who had traveled with them.
“It meant the world to me for them to take care of that little guy,” Buck said. “It sure showed a lot about their character, not just taking care of us, but him, too.”
The couple, along with Greystoke, arrived in Mountain Home on Aug. 16 to take part in the wedding of Debbie Andrews, a St. Luke’s certified nursing assistant. She wasn’t home, busy with wedding preparation, and the Jolleys had felt increasingly sick during their drive up.
Getting treated was the right decision – both tested positive for COVID-19.
“It kept getting worse and worse, we just felt awful, had trouble breathing … I still have some lingering effects,” Sandy said.
The temperature was in the upper 90s that day.
When the Jolleys arrived at St. Luke’s, they wanted to make sure that Greystoke would be OK, as the combination of being in his carrier, the temperature and his owners being indisposed wasn’t a good recipe.
Julie Swofford to the rescue!
Swofford, a patient access supervisor, had overheard Buck mention the cat as he spoke with a screener. Initially, they tried the local humane society to see if they could temporarily take care of Greystoke, but it was after hours. So, Swofford called building services manager Sonia Poulin, who suggested putting him in the maintenance shed, which was air conditioned.
“If we can move the mountain, we should, if we have compassion, then use it, and when our excellence is able to shine, then let’s use it for the greater good,” said Swofford, who has three dogs and a cat. “This was a perfect example of what St. Luke’s stands for and why I jumped in.”
The team repurposed a cart to temporarily house the cat as the Jolleys were examined and treated. He received food and water, too.
“My thought was that if I was traveling somewhere with my pets that I love so much, I would hope that someone would help me too if I was in need of emergency services,” Swofford said.
Once they had a plan, the St. Luke’s team asked the couple for their keys to take the cat to the shed. Buck, 72, a veteran who loves listening to old country on cassette tapes, shed a little tear, while Sandy, 70, rejoiced.
“He’s our furry son,” Buck said.
Sandy was released after a few hours, and Mario Arellano, the on-call facility maintenance team member, reunited Greystoke with Sandy when she was discharged.
Meanwhile, Buck had shown more serious symptoms with heart
and kidney issues. He was taken to St. Luke’s Boise, the hospital where he was
born, spending four days there before being discharged. The couple then
quarantined, happy to be on the road to health and sad to have missed Andrews’
Buck had intended to walk her down the aisle. He hadn’t seen her since 1975, at Buck’s brother’s funeral, until reconnecting this summer.
It has been a whirlwind year or so for the Jolleys, who were married from 1972 to 1978 and lost touch after their divorce, but in the summer of 2020, Sandy realized she had never parted with her ring or her photos of their wedding.
“I hate to brag, but we were a really good-looking couple!” Sandy said.
Sandy used every resource she could, signing up for people search sites, to find Buck. Eventually, she found a relative who put them in touch. Over their first two months reconnecting, they put in 6,100 minutes on the phone.
Soon, Buck decided he wanted to move closer to Sandy in Longview, Wash., from Grants Pass, Ore. They remarried Nov. 2, 2020 – 38 years after they first exchanged vows.
“It was the day my life was good again,” Buck said.
It took a little time to win over a certain someone – the furry little friend, Greystoke.
“At first, he was very jealous, but now, he’s my little buddy,” Buck said.
Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.