Mr. K is a 45-year-old male who was transferred to TGH from an outside hospital. He was tubing in Tennessee during a vacation with his wife when a minor bounce off the tube changed his life forever. He was suddenly paralyzed with a C7 burst fracture. Upon treatment and workup, it was found that the injury was not from traumatic injury but from pathologic injury. Mr. K was diagnosed with multiple myeloma with heavy tumor involvement. He underwent surgery in Tennessee, was stabilized, and was then transferred to TGH for further care and to be close to his family and friends.
Mr. K was in TGH rehab prior to transferring to the ortho trauma floor. Due to complications in rehab, he was transferred to our unit. It is not every day that we take care of cancer patients nor patients with new spinal cord injuries. When he got to our unit, it was right before Hurricane Irma. He shared with us his story and that he had not been outside in several months. Two nurses made it their mission to get Mr. K outside before the weather got bad so he could breathe the fresh air that he had been missing out on for months. As he was rolled outside, tears of joy ran down his face. His wife also cried when he called and told her the news. This was the beginning of a very special bond between Mr. K and the ortho trauma staff. Mr. K recognized that the staff took the time and effort to educate themselves and each other on his illness, medications, and the complications of both to best take care of him. The staff did in-services on Mr. K’s condition and consulted with oncology, rehab, and PT to provide the best care for him. Although Mr. K was an oncology patient with a spinal cord injury he trusted the ortho staff and asked to please stay on our unit for the duration of his stay.
It was a long journey for Mr. K between his chemotherapy treatments, extensive physical therapy, and the complications that arose from autonomic dysrelfexia. He remained positive because he trusted in his care. We were all with him through his good days, bad days, and the days in between. Many nurses spent their lunch breaks eating in his room with him to chat and keep him company. He was a very difficult discharge due to his acute needs, treatments, equipment, and expensive chemotherapy. We found out he would probably be staying with us through the holidays. This was difficult news for him because it would be his first holiday season away from home and his one-year wedding anniversary was on New Year’s Eve. The entire unit rallied as a team and helped Mr. K plan a special anniversary for him and his wife.
We started the anniversary planning in early December, so everything would come together smoothly. Mr. K gained extra motivation to work with physical therapy on sitting up in the wheelchair for long periods of time. He gave us the contact information of a close friend to help with the planning. Mr. K’s friend was in charge of decorating the room for the special night. The staff decorated his room with a Christmas tree, and everyone brought in ornaments from home and lights to decorate. One nurse ordered a Tuxedo T-shirt and was in charge of making sure he was showered and dressed for the special event. Another nurse made sure his hair was cut and he was shaved. We used the round table from the leadership office and made a romantic table set-up for two. Mr. K used Uber Eats to deliver their favorite meal. Another nurse brought in Mr. K’s favorite cheesecake for dessert. His attending physician brought in a case of Bud Light Lime because Mr. K had mentioned that was his favorite beer and he had not had any in months. The most special surprise of the evening was the anniversary gift for the couple. One of our nurses is a gifted artist and was asked to paint a portrait of the couple’s favorite picture. The picture was Mr. K and his wife’s very first picture ever taken together as a couple. This anniversary gift was a surprise to the both of them. One of our PCTs got a beautiful frame to place the picture in. As Mr. K surprised his wife with the beautiful decorations and dinner, the ortho unit surprised them with the anniversary gift. Watching the ortho trauma team come together on the day of Mr. K’s anniversary was a moment we will never forget. He was not worried at the time about his illness, but he wanted everything to be special and perfect for his anniversary. Our team came together and made sure it was.
After being in the hospital for 151 days, Mr. K was discharged from TGH and transferred to an acute rehab in Jacksonville. There wasn’t a dry eye on the floor as he rolled out of TGH. Although he would say we made a huge impact on his hospital stay, the truth is that he made an even bigger impact on us. We weren’t just an ortho team, we were a family. Mr. K became a part of our family during his stay and continues to keep in touch with our unit and update us on his progress. At this time, he is home and working through the progression of his disease with his family and hospice. We continue to root for him every day.