Kupuna Life: Hanging up her nurse’s cap to care for the Laysan Albatross

Kupuna Life

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hob Osterlund, who starred as Ivy Push in a one-nurse play she wrote called “When Ivy Push Comes to Shove” at Manoa Valley Theater, had doctors and nurses rolling for 45 minutes.

“My supervisor comes up to me and says ‘eh, Ivy push, you can do a double?” said Osterlund, who is a retired nurse, comedian, and wildlife conservationist. “Absolutely meant to encourage and inspirit my colleagues, my beloved colleagues in nursing.”

Hob was a nurse for nearly 40 years at Wilcox Hospital on Kauai where she lives. And the Queens Medical Center, from where she retired in 2011. With this pandemic, she’s taking contact tracer training, but wanted to be on the frontline.

“I realized, I am suddenly the kupuna. I am suddenly in the high risk age group. And shouldn’t be doing that. That was a difficult thing to accept.”

Hob now cares for birds, Laysan Albatross or Moli, because they saved her.

“My mother died from breast cancer when I was 10-years-old and like all children really, that age I thought it was my fault. You really don’t have any place to put it when you’re that age.”

So she carried it for decades, until she started working with albatross in 2007, and had a miracle encounter with one and it set her free.

“As she walked past, she stepped on my foot and didn’t even notice me,” she said. “Meaning it didn’t see me as fearful, didn’t see me as scary. I had this tremendous wave of relief and tears but I realized. what I learned from that albatross in that moment was that I wasn’t guilty of killing my mother. I made a commitment to serve them for the rest of my life so that’s what I’m doing.”

Hob volunteers to care for the albatross for private landowners, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. She wrote Holy Moli, produced the film ‘Kalama’s Journey,’ founded the Kauai Albatross Network, co-founded the new Kauai Wildlife Coalition, and is a fellow at the conservation group Safina Center.

She insists that you would love albatross too.

“They’re kind of the quintessential Hawaiian bird, in that they’re master navigators.”

They hanai easily, and they’re peaceful she says. The albatross are loyal to their mates and that after months of flying, their reunion is something to behold.

“They run to each other and squeal and peep and nuzzle and spend the night together. Their joy is palpable if you ever doubt that animals love,” she said.


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