Kristy Ayers

Kristy Ayers

Kristy Ayers, RN

Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
University of Virginia Health System
Charlottesville, Virginia
United States
No matter how old you get, when your heart is breaking you need a motherly presence and Kristy offered that to the patient's mom. She comforted her as she kissed her son goodbye for the last time.

A little over a month ago Kristy took care of a very precious little boy who was so loved by the PICU team.  This child had experienced numerous PICU admissions over the previous 1-2 years for a degenerative neurological disorder that caused his body to weaken.  The parents and brother were incredibly loving and took such phenomenal care of him at home, but his body was tiring out and having a harder time recovering from the different illnesses and crises that he encountered.

Shortly after the holidays and after multiple unsuccessful extubations the decision was made to remove the ventilator support and to provide as much support as was needed to keep him comfortable for however long he would survive.  The medical and palliative care team didn't know how long he would live after taking out the breathing tube, but no one thought it would be more than a few days.

When Kristy came on shift he was actively in the dying process.  Kristy was a strong and loving presence for the family as they started grieving the loss they were about to experience. Through the night she made sure to titrate medication to keep him comfortable, and she encouraged both mom and dad to snuggle him and love on each other.  No matter how old you get, when your heart is breaking you need a motherly presence and Kristy offered that to the patient's mom.  She comforted her as she kissed her son goodbye for the last time.

During that particular shift, the entire unit was buzzing with activity.  Somehow Kristy was able to not only be there for her patient through his dying process, but she also supported the young nursing staff around her with their patients, and also put together a beautiful butterfly wreath to hang on her child's door to alert others to be quiet and respectful around that room.  This wreath was also something that the parents took home with them, which they were so thankful for.

Kristy goes above and beyond in her contributions to bereavement.  The PICU uses a butterfly to signify a patient at the end of life. She makes these beautiful wreaths with butterflies on them to place on patients’ doors to help alert staff members of the sensitive situation on the other side of that door.  She keeps the PICU stocked with these wreaths and has them so that the family can take it home if they choose, which so many families deeply appreciate.  It is another beautiful memento to help honor their child's life. Kristy did not know that she would be walking into a dying patient's room that night, but when she realized it she did everything she could to make the experience as patient and family-centered as she could, and she provided them with beautiful final memories to keep in their hearts forever.