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When South Texans have tattoos that are holding them back, they seek out Nurse of the Week Loretta Kent. After nearly 30 years as an ER nurse, the 72-year-old Texan founded a non-profit tattoo removal clinic to help parolees, abused women, former gang members, and others shed visible mementos of a past they want to leave behind. “Help” is the operative word for Kent, who sees the job as a logical second act to her nursing career: “You don’t become a nurse because you don’t want to help others,” she laughs.
Kent stressed, “If you have a tattoo that you love and is not causing you any problems, I think you should keep them. I am not saying anything is wrong with those. But if you have one that is unwanted, know that it will hold you back in life. If it is keeping you from getting a job or causing you a problem in your personal life, covering it up won’t do the trick…” As for the physical pain of removing those past mistakes, she smiles, “Most women handle it very well. Men, on the other hand…”
After a plastic surgeon she had worked with closed his tattoo removal clinic, Kent opened her own Southwest Tattoo Removal Program in 1917. Her primary aim is to eradicate ink that can prevent people from moving on with their lives. In fact, those who are unemployed, on probation, or parole can begin the removal process free of charge. “Then,” Kent says, “I expect them to start looking for a job and, when they can, start bring me $35 per treatment. It is other people who don’t fit that scenario that pay for the full service that helps me provide the service for the people I can help and who can’t afford it. I decide case by case. I have to hear their story. I can usually tell what their situation is based on the tattoos they want to remove and we just start a conversation from there. You ask, ‘Well why charge $35?’ People don’t think as much of things that are given to them for free. If they are able to start paying a few dollars here and there when they can afford to do so, then it will mean more for them. Plus it also cost a lot of money to do this!”
Kent’s approach to tattoo removal is practical, sympathetic, and nonjudgmental. She believes that early bad choices should not automatically define the person you are now. “[Tattoos acquired in] prison and previous life don’t have to introduce you to other people first before you get a chance to be who you are. I’ve also helped abused women who have been stamped or marked during the history of their bad relationships. It is not a good memory… every time you see it it brings up those memories and you shouldn’t have to look at that every time you take a shower.”
For more on Loretta Kent, see the video and article on the South Texas KSAT site.
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