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Human Interest

Pennsylvania Nurse Fulfills Terminal Patient’s Dying Wish to Raise Her Son: ‘I Was Sent to Help Her’

Updated

 

When Tricia Somers was told she had terminal liver cancer, the ailing mother turned to her favorite oncology nurse, Tricia Seaman, to look after her only son when she died.

“She referred to me as her angel and said I was sent to help her and her son,”  Seaman, 43, tells PEOPLE. “Tricia told me that the first time I walked in to take care of her, she just felt warm and at peace. She knew I was the one.”

Somers, a single mom raising her then 8-year-old son Wesley, became “like family” to the nurse, her husband, Dan Seaman and their four children in the final months before she passed away on December 7, 2014.

“God has this planned perfectly, there was a reason I was Tricia’s nurse,” says Seaman. “I feel so blessed to have known her and now have the privilege to raise her son.

“She’ll always be with me.”

Tadpole Photography
Tadpole Photography

Seaman, a nurse for 22 years, was working in oncology at Pinnacle Health Community General in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, when she first met Somers in March 2014. Somers was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer in 2013 and was in recovery from a procedure that had taken place earlier that day.

“I said, ‘Wow this will be easy to remember your name because we have the same one!’ ” recalls Seaman. “We even shared the same initials, T.S.”

Tadpole Photography
Tadpole Photography

The two women hit it off right away and Somers opened up to the nurse about her difficult past and her fear of dying.

“She was a single parent to Wesley and both of her parents had passed away from cancer,” she says. “She had moved to Harrisburg because she was a victim of domestic violence and needed a fresh start.”

Tadpole Photography
Tadpole Photography

From the that first meeting, it was clear Somers treasured her son more than anything in the world.

“He was front and center of her life, she had pictures of him and drawings he had made for her,” says Seaman. “She was so proud of him, but she was also very concerned about what was going to happen if she died.”

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Seaman wasn’t assigned as Somers’ nurse again, but she frequently popped into the ailing mother’s room to say hello and check on her. On the last day of her hospital stay, Seaman stopped by to say farewell – and it was in that moment that her life was forever changed.

“Tricia had just gotten lab tests back and she stood up to me and said, ‘The biopsy came back and I’m terminal, I’m going to die,’ ” says Seaman. “And then she asked if me and Dan would raise Wesley when she died.

“I was shocked.”

Tadpole Photography
Tadpole Photography

What Somers didn’t know at the time was that Seaman and her husband had been trying to add a child to their family “for years.” Seaman gave birth to three of her four children via C-section and doctors told her that another pregnancy might cause complications for the baby. So, the Seamans looked into adoption.

“We were approved as foster parents in October of 2013, but nothing ever came our way,” says Seaman. “So when Tricia said she wanted me to take Wesley, I had such conflicting emotions. This was devastating for her, but we couldn’t help but wonder if this was meant to be.”

Seaman urged Somers to think carefully about her request, but Somers knew she had found a family for Wesley.

Courtesy Tricia Seaman
Courtesy Tricia Seaman

“The first time Dan and I met Wesley I felt so sad for Tricia, but it was like, ‘Wow I could be meeting my son for the first time,’ ” she says. “He’s just so adorable we fell in love with him right away.”

The two families began spending time together. Somers, who was growing closer to death each day, eventually moved in with the Seamans.

“They became family, we’d go on vacations together, we were so attached to them both,” says Seaman. “We took care of her in our house until she became too ill and went to inpatient oncology and then to a hospice residence.”

On December 7, 2014 Tricia Somers passed away.

“By that time we had already taken care of the paperwork, Tricia created a will and named us legal guardians,” say Seaman. “We shared legal custody with Wesley’s biological dad, who is allowed visitation. They see each other twice a year.”

Tadpole Photography
Tadpole Photography

“We’re all together now,” says Seaman, who penned God Gave Me You, a book about their incredible journey. “The kids call each other brother and sister and Wesley refers to us as his parents.”

Wesley is now 10 and a “complete part of the family.”

“When Tricia was dying she actually said to me, ‘Stop crying!’ and I said, ‘I can’t help it I don’t want to let you go!’ ” recalls Seaman. “She then thanked me for taking in Wesley, but I said, ‘No, don’t thank me, I want to thank you.’ ”

“I told her, ‘Because you have changed my life for the better and Wesley is in the best of hands, you’ll never have to worry. You can rest easy.’ “