Ink for ALS patient a memorable act for local tattoo artist (video)

Ink for ALS patient a memorable act for local tattoo artist (video)

North Providence tattoo artist Joshua Perry works on Thomas Caouette’s new tattoo.

This was easily the most rewarding ink job of Joshua Perry’s career.

When he got the call from Coventry Center Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation that a patient had asked for another tattoo as one of his last wishes, he jumped at the chance to do something so positive. Thomas “Buck” Caouette, a 37-year-old former resident of Central Falls and Pawtucket, was diagnosed with ALS in April of 2013 and he went on life support in January. He and his fiancée, Stephanie DiIorio, have three children together.

Officials from the Rhode Island Department of Health told Perry that this would be the first time anyone had ever completed a tattoo inside a New England health facility.

After three months of jumping over hurdles to get approvals from state officials, Perry and his partner at his Ink Me Tattoos at 1759 Mineral Spring Ave. in North Providence, Edwin Gomez, had the approvals they needed to visit Caouette and give him a tattoo.

Watch Buck's tattoo session.

Caouette wasn’t able to communicate with them verbally, said Perry, but his ear-to-ear smile as he got a portrait of his grandmother on his left arm told him everything he needed to know.

“He smiled so much it blew my mind,” he said. “This meant more to me than anything I’ve ever done in my life.”

While they were at it, Perry and Gomez also did a tattoo of Stephanie’s name on his left leg.

“It was awesome to see it come through for him,” said DiIorio this week. “With ALS, there’s not too much he can actually do.”

DiIorio said it’s been quite a struggle for family since Thomas was diagnosed with ALS, and it’s been even worse since he was intubated four months ago.

Her fiancé isn’t gone yet, said DiIorio, as his heart and mind are still here with his family.

The joy on Caouette’s face as he got his tattoos last Wednesday will stay with him for a long time, said Perry. Here was a man who was struggling with such a terrible disease showing immense gratitude for a simple act as he fought with “such strength and courage,” he said.

“It was definitely emotional,” said Perry.

Staff at the medical center offered to hold a fundraiser to pay Perry and Gomez for their hours of work, but Perry said doing the tattoos for free was the least they could do.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that has no cure. It’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Nearly 6,000 people are diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. each year.

Perry said he never truly understood ALS before meeting Caouette, and he has a newfound empathy for people who are suffering from it.

North Providence tattoo artist Joshua Perry poses with Thomas Caouette’s, after giving Caouette a new arm tattoo last Wednesday.
Caouette shows off the completed tattoo of his grandmother.