Norma Cook has lived across the hall from actor Chris Salvatore for years and recently received an interesting invitation. Cook, 89, has leukemia and spent two months late last year in the hospital due to pneumonia. Cook could not be released from the hospital without 24 hour care, which was not covered through her insurance. That was when Chris Salvatore asked to help her.
Salvatore set up a GoFundMe page last Thanksgiving that raised over $50,000. Salvatore then used the money to see what kind of caretaking services would benefit Cook the most. To cut costs, Salvatore asked Cook if she would like to move into his apartment. Cook, who has no children or close family in California, said yes. Salvatore also took in Cook’s cat, Hermes.
“She couldn’t be happier that I asked,” Salvatore said. “I was over there visiting most days anyway. The only other option was for her to go into a facility. I just couldn’t do that to someone who is like my own grandmother. She called me the grandson she never had.”
Though neither of them could have predicted what would happen when they first met five years ago, the arrangement is working well.
“He cooks for me. If he can’t make it as an actor, he can make it as a chef,” Cook joked. “We always watch the news,” she continued. “We mostly talk and drink Champagne and eat peanuts.”
Salvatore created the hashtag #myneighbornorma and often shares pictures and videos of them together on social media.
“The nurses and doctors told her that it would be a miracle if she lived past the holidays, so the fact that she’s still thriving is just a really great thing,” said Salvatore.
Cook is grateful to be able to spend her last days with Salvatore. “He’s a really wonderful guy,” she said.
“Moving her in…it feels as though it was meant to be all along. She has strong opinions about where she wants to carry out the rest of her days and she wants to stay here,” said Salvatore. “It’s really fulfilling to be there for her.”