“Several years ago I was assigned to provide 1:1 observation for a young adolescent male patient in our emergency room. The young man was brought to the department by his mother after he expressed a wish to die. When I met the young man, I could see he was sad and worried about something. After chatting for a while, he told me that he was being harassed by the other kids in school. Because he was a recent immigrant from the Caribbean, the young man became a target for teasing by classmates.
I explained that, having emigrated from Jamaica myself, I understood what he was going through. I explained that the kids were teasing him because we speak differently but that it would pass after they got to know him. I shared what had helped me adjust after I arrived in the U.S. and by the end of the conversation, the young man’s mood brightened up. His mother told me she was very grateful that I spoke with him and said I helped save him. They both continued to stay in touch, sending me messages to let me know how he was doing. They even sent me pictures of him at his Senior Prom, a happy and smiling young man with many friends. It just goes to show that no matter who you are, where you come from, or what you do for a living, you can help save someone.”
Liz Burgher, CNA, Good Samaritan Medical Center
As health care workers we all know how hard it is to work our Christmas shift and leave our families. But there is one Christmas that will always stand out to those who worked in the ICU that day.
A young male patient was brought into the ER on December 24 and was unresponsive. He was placed on a ventilator and sent to the ICU. His wife was notified and she came to the hospital early Christmas morning with their three young children. Our shift started at 7 a.m. and as you walked by the waiting room you could see the innocent and frightened faces of these children who were still in their PJs. They were trying to be so quiet and almost inconspicuous. The oldest was caring for the younger siblings. Mary Fournier, the nursing assistant, and I were taking care of patients when she told me that she thought the children may be hungry. So, Mary brought cookies to them and we gave them some milk. Doris Pereira then got involved and was instrumental in arranging lunch to be delivered to them from the hospital cafeteria while their mom stood vigil in the patient’s room. The entire staff was so impressed that these three children were so good and never once asked for anything. At the same time, we were all aware that while other children were opening up presents from Santa, they were in the midst of a tragic family situation that even an adult would find hard to bear. The unit coordinator made periodic visits, the respiratory therapist would stop and talk and all of the other nursing staff on that day went out of their way to offer juice, pencils, conversation and find cartoons on the television for them to watch.
At the end of my shift as I walked past the waiting area, they were still there. It was going on almost 24 hours! My ride home was filled of thoughts of the three children. These children did not cry, whine, or even seem to care it was Christmas. They never uttered a word that they were missing out on opening presents and they never complained – even when they were hungry.
As I drove in my driveway to my decorated house and my husband waiting for me, I felt we must do something. I told my husband the story and we decided that if Santa did not go to their house this year then Santa would drop gifts for them at the hospital. I had several children’s presents in the house from years past and I began to wrap, divide and sort. The Santa suit we had for our grandchildren was brought out of storage and my husband got dressed without hesitation. We called the nurse taking care of the patient to ask the mom for permission to make a visit and we got the okay! Everyone was waiting. Some staff even stayed at the end of their shift until Santa arrived.
Santa entered the room and said, “I went to your house and no one was home, but an elf told me you were here. There are presents for you because you have been good boys and girls."
The caring spirit in the ICU was passed from one person to another like a magical spell.
I have been a nurse at Carney Hospital for 35 years and I have learned a lot from my patients. As I think back, there was a patient who I cared for early in my career that helped me become the nurse I am today.
When I began caring for this patient, I was unfamiliar with the complicated chronic disease that she struggled to manage. She was frequently in and out of the hospital and developed a reputation among the nurses for being a difficult patient. At first, I was nervous about caring for her, but I very quickly realized that her difficult manner was a manifestation of her pain. In time, I learned what she needed from me and she showed me how I could best care for her. She had a lot of wisdom to pass along to a young nurse. I am very grateful for her lessons.
Elaine Adams, RN, Carney Hospital
A middle-aged gentleman came into the Emergency Department in full cardiac arrest and we immediately sprang into action to resuscitate and stabilize him.
As he was waiting to be admitted to the hospital to recover, I spent time with his family to explain what had happened to their dad and what they could expect in the days to come. In these conversations, I learned that his son had been working on his Eagle Scout project earlier in the day with his dad. I am an Eagle Scout and I was able to talk with his son about our shared experience. Even though we had just met, I felt a strong bond with this patient’s son.
A couple of months later, I received an invitation to attend his son’s Eagle Scout banquet. His dad had made a full recovery and I was honored to be with this father and son while they celebrated a great personal accomplishment for this young man and a full recovery by his dad.
Aaron Canney, RN, Holy Family Hospital
After several months in an out of the hospital, a young man passed away in the ICU at Saint Anne’s Hospital. As an interpreter, I had gotten to know him well because he relied upon our team to help him communicate with his doctors and nurses.
In the last days of his life, Lucia, one of our interpreters, worked closely with this family to facilitate care and provide support during this very sad time. Lucia went beyond her bedside responsibilities and offered to provide interpreter services to his family while they made arrangements for his funeral.
The family was so thankful for her assistance during this difficult time. A few days after the funeral had taken place, the patient’s mother came back to the hospital looking for Lucia. She thanked Lucia for all of her care and support of her son – and for the support of their family after he had passed away. She said that Lucia had a heart of gold.
Natalia Konarski, Manager of Interpreter Services at Saint Anne’s Hospital
As the head of cardiovascular services at Morton Hospital for the past 15 years, some of the most heart wrenching experiences have helped me to become a much better human being and a more compassionate caregiver.
I use a “turn it on” type of kindness when I take care of my patients. Many times I find patients who are afraid to express their pain or share their concerns. I do my best to make them comfortable.
One particular patient who stands out in my experience is a gentleman who was very gruff and abrupt. I spent time with him, but you could tell he didn’t want to open up. So, I showered him with kindness. One day his wife was there and helped us finally bridge the communication. I saw that his hard exterior was a way to hide the emotions he was experiencing since he had recently been diagnosed with cancer.
For the next three years, I became very close with this patient. The patient had a couple of hospitalizations and one time I was called up to his room and feared the worst. When I arrived he was just fine and he said, “I thought of you right away because I can’t get the radio station to play the Red Sox game.” After I found the game on the radio station, I chuckled to myself – this was the man who didn’t want to talk to anyone before and now he reached out to someone! We were making progress.
When the patient passed away, one of the more touching things that ever happened in my life was when I attended his wake and his wife introduced me to her son, who lived out of state. She said to her son, “I want to let you know this is your surrogate brother. Your father adopted him as his own son.”
Mike Reilly, Morton Hospital