Aunt G was admitted to St. Luke’s with an upset stomach. What we thought would be a short stay ended up being an acute bacterial infection that ultimately sent her home to hospice, where she passed just a week later. At 76-years-old, G had survived many illnesses, but the one that made the biggest impact on her life was a traumatic brain injury she sustained as an infant. It resulted in her having the cognitive ability of a 3-to-5-year-old, she was a child in an adult’s body. The night before we found out Aunt G’s illness was incurable, we had the pleasure of having Haley as our nurse. People not familiar with hospitals immediately assume that every staff member is equipped to assess and handle cognitive disabilities, but (sadly) this is not the case. Luckily for us, it was with Haley.
She understood Aunt G’s special needs and was patient, kind, and empathetic. She made sure we understood as her family what was going on, but most importantly, Haley made sure Aunt G was never in any pain and treated her with respect. This means she explained what was going on at G’s level. Those of us without special needs take this for granted, being spoken to instead of spoken of, but it is so important for everyone to feel heard and to be able to understand, especially when you’re sick. The morning we were told Aunt G’s story wouldn’t have a happy ending, Haley sat with my parents to help them understand how a stomach ache can kill you. After my sister and I arrived, she sat with us too. Telling any family, a beloved member has only so many options has to be the worst job on earth. But we trusted what Haley told as because Aunt G wasn’t just another face to Haley, she was a person. Ultimately, we decided Aunt G would come home for hospice. Nurses, nurse practitioners, and doctors can’t tell you what they would do in these situations; they can tell you what’s happening medically. It feels heartless and you could easily feel abandoned. We didn’t feel abandoned. Haley was there the entire time and when our family made the most difficult decision, she gave us a gift we will all treasure forever; she printed out Auntie G’s EKG reading as a memorial token for each of us. Words can’t express how much we treasure it and Haley’s kindness to think to give it to us. Hailey also stayed past her shift to make sure Aunt G remained comfortable prior to our departure for hospice care.
Haley gave comfort and hugs and wanted to provide us with the best possible experience during what was, thus far, the worst situation we would ever deal with. Haley didn’t know us, we were just another family going through a really hard situation, but she made it better, and more importantly, she made it matter and she made it personal. Haley cared for our “G” as if she had known her all her life and that touched our hearts in a way I can’t express.