My mother was hospitalized and I found myself back in the surgical intensive care unit of Lewis Gale Hospital after almost 10 years. Being in the unit again brought forth a flood of memories from years ago. After a month in the surgical intensive care unit, my husband, Joe, died there early on a Tuesday morning. While many of these memories are quite painful, there are also memories that I will forever cherish. These are memories of the people who worked so hard to care for my husband while very ill.
On Tuesday of this past week, my dear friend, Anna Staniecki was with me at my mother's bedside and we began remembering 10 years ago. Anna still works for Lewis Gale and I asked if any of Joe's nurses were also still working here.
Incredibly Melanie Suga was on duty that afternoon. She was a nurse that took care of Joe during the late night early morning hours, and I will never forget her kindness. As I told the stories of what Anna and Melanie did for my husband Joe, we all started to cry. This conversation is what brings me here today to recognize the very special nurses for what they did for my husband and to say Thank You for the precious memories you have given me that help to ease the pain of what was a difficult time in my life.
During the latter part of Joe's time here, he was very restless and couldn't understand what was wrong and why we couldn't go home. He begged quite often for a few simple things. He asked me if I could find his pants? He said if I parked the car close and we found his pants, he thought we could make it out of here! He begged for coffee. He wanted to sleep with me again and he begged to see his very special little buddy our dog Cotton. Thanks to the nurses who heard his cries, Joe got almost all of his wishes.
Around 2am, his last Saturday morning, the phone rang at home. It was Joe. I heard this very small, breathy voice ask "what are you doing?" I said, just thinking about you. Then Joe asked, "Can you come over". I told him to let me speak to Melanie. I asked Melanie if I could come over and get in bed with him. She said, "Of course". And, she suggested that I bring a pillow sprayed with my perfume.
When I arrived at his bedside, Melanie had already given Joe a bath and moved all of his tubes and fluid collection bottles out of the way. And, she had pulled Joe to one side of the bed so there was room for me. As I crawled in with him, Melanie left and pulled the curtain shut. Joe hadn't slept for days. But with me beside him, he finally fell into a deep sleep. And, a day later he was still holding that pillow spayed with my perfume.
Melanie, this may have been inconsequential to you, but, it was very important to me and it was to Joe. It gave him peace and it fulfilled one of his final wishes. I am forever grateful to you for that and I will always remember you for your kindness.
Since it was against the rules for Joe to see Cotton, those who assisted with breaking those rules will remain nameless, but this is a story you should hear. Growing up, Joe was never allowed to have a dog. Joe had grown up living in the hotel that his parents owned. So, it was quite the surprise one Christmas when Joe went to the SPCA and selected Cotton for just me. The bond between them grew very strong. And while Joe was hospitalized, he missed Cotton terribly. So after hearing Joe's cries to see his little buddy again, the nameless group of cohorts went to work and a plan was hatched. Then, on the Sunday before Joe's death, at the appointed time, Joe was taken to the Outpatient entrance and I met them with Cotton. My mother suggested I take some treats for Joe to feed him. Cotton weighed about 40 pounds and was typically full of life. But at that time, Cotton sat quietly beside Joe, smelling of him and eating treats from his hand. It was as if he knew.
It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the cohorts noticed Joe straining to see out. Someone asked him if he wanted to go outside. He said "yes". So, they rolled him out into the fresh air and he felt the warmth of the sunshine one last time.
I didn't know my dear friend Anna until I met her here 10 years ago, and I believe that God does know what is best for us. He knew that while everyone else was taking care of Joe, I needed someone to support me and help me to understand what was happening. Anna was a Case Manager back then. And sometime shortly after Joe's second surgery, someone was explaining the newest complications of his situation to me. I felt like I was going to faint. Then I felt these arms behind me and a voice asking if I needed a room and a Chaplain. I said yes and was escorted to a private area. That person behind me was Anna. Throughout that month, whenever I needed support, or help, or just a warm friendly smile that reassured me everything would be ok, I would look up and there was Anna. And she's been my dear friend ever since. It's impossible to describe all the goodness Anna has brought to my life. Anna is the Angel that God sent to me when he knew I needed a true lifelong friend. Anna, your friendship has been a blessing in my life. Thank you for just being you and for the joy and peace you gave to Joe.
These women serve as examples of how nurses have a lasting impact on the lives of others. They are examples for the rest of us to follow. My life and Joe's final days were forever changed because of the caring, compassionate acts of Melanie Suga and Anna Staniecki and I am so pleased to honor them with the DAISY award.