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Everlasting impression: Patient, nurse reunited

It was a “date” two years in the making. Two years may have passed, but her memory hadn’t failed her. Bernice Newcomb, 80, constantly spoke of her “bald- headed man.”

In 2011, Newcomb was hospitalized at Halifax Regional Health System where she met a nurse by the name of Matt Painter. 

Painter had just begun his career as a nurse when Newcomb came on his floor as a patient.

“She stood out to me because she was a very kind elderly patient,” said Painter.

Little to his knowledge, Painter left an everlasting impression on Newcomb. One she would talk about for over two years with family and friends.

“He’s just so pretty. You don’t forget a face like that,” said Newcomb.

While he was her nurse and he’d stick her with needles, Newcomb said she’d just stare at his “pretty face” and wouldn’t feel a thing.

Newcomb’s niece, Sheila Lacks, said that Painter was real good to her aunt when she was in the hospital and just always made an effort to be kind.

So when Newcomb returned to the hospital at the end of July she was hoping she would run into him again.

“I was told that she was looking for that good looking bald-headed nurse. I took it as a compliment. I think that’s why most older women like me, because I am bald,” said Painter. 

Family members asked around to see if they could locate him, and when they found out his name, they looked him up on Facebook to contact him to see if he would come see Newcomb.

According to Painter, when Newcomb’s great niece, Tammy Lacks Moore, messaged him on Facebook and told him of her condition, he said he’d stop in to spend time with her as soon as he could. 

“He took time and stopped out of his busy day to visit with her,” said Lacks.

“He even asked someone to take pictures of the two of them together,” she added.

The first thing he said when he walked into her room was “Your boyfriend is here,” and her face lit up, according to Painter.

She immediately recognized her “bald-headed man,” and he pointed to a picture of “Walker Texas Ranger” she has hanging over her bed and asked, “Who is this guy? You’re not cheating on me are you?” said Painter, and the two joked about it later.

Newcomb is suffering from congestive heart failure and was moved to The Woodview under hospice care.

 “I kept him in my heart and in my mind,” said Newcomb of the last two years.

Little did she know that a lunch was being planned in her honor with the unforgettable nurse.

On Aug. 21, Newcomb had a candlelit lunch, music playing in the background and was met with flowers from Painter.

“Her face was priceless,” said Tammy.

Painter on his day off visited with Newcomb at The Woodview for two hours after their lunch together, just talking.

“He is amazing,” she added.

After their first visit in the hospital, Newcomb joked and said she’d have to get a bell to put on him to keep up with him.

Newcomb received care for over 30 years from her sister, Ruth Wade, who visits her often at The Woodview.

Family members have made a copy of the picture of her and Painter and enlarged it and put it over her bed at The Woodview right next to her picture of Walker Texas Ranger to keep a constant smile on her face.

“He’s my little bald-headed man,” Newcomb concluded.

Painter is a graduate of Lynchburg College and really enjoys his job. His first clinical was at a nursing home, and there was an elderly woman who would only eat for him out of all the students (he was the only male in his class), and it was that moment he decided nursing was the right field for his future. 

He works three 12 hours shifts from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and tries to pick up a fourth day of overtime if possible. He works his days in a row, so he can keep the same patients. 

“I think it is better for the nurse and the patient to have some familiarity with each other,” said Painter.