One winter night, as I walked through the automatic door of our hospital entrance, wondering, as always, what kind of shift awaited me, I was greeted by the familiar, monotonous cry of a person who could not express his pain in words. He was a patient with mental retardation cerebral palsy, a thirty-something-year-old man who looked like a seven-year-old boy with the intellection of an infant. He had quite a few hospital problems, but the main concern was a leaking and bleeding PEG site. The doctor ordered two hour dressing changes on him as his PEG site always got soaked with blood and mucus. Needless to say, he was a pretty busy patient who needed a lot of attention and care. I silently prayed that the nurse assigned to him that night had the magic touch and finally would provide him the comfort that he needed.
Neil Calaguian was the nurse assigned to that patient, and when I saw Neil's name as his nurse, I heaved a sigh of relief. I knew that the patient, T, was going to be well taken care of.
Sure enough, that night, T was more quiet than usual. At some point that night, I wanted to stop by his room to say hi to him. It was at that moment that I saw the kind of care he was getting, which probably played a big factor as to why his cries no longer echoed throughout the unit as it had been for the past couple of days.
Neil was changing T's dressing at that moment, his back was to me, both of them oblivious of my presence. Neil was talking to T in his soothing voice as though T could understand every word he was saying. The room looked immaculate, with all the PEG tube and wound care supplies arranged in an almost OCD manner. I swallowed a lump of embarrassment in my throat as I remembered how the bedside table looked when T was my patient a week ago. I made a mental note on how to arrange supplies on the bedside table, and then I cleared my throat to signify my presence. Neil turned around, and I saw beads of sweat on his forehead and a few strands of hair matted on the side of his face. I knew how hot it could get in that room with an isolation gown on. Neil told me that he had been in the room for an hour now, trying to make sure that T was clean and comfortable and ready for bedtime. T was now sporting a clean, fresh, white abdominal binder under his gown, a stark contrast to the old, worn and stained binder that was halfway hanging in the trash.
As Neil walked around the room, T's eyes followed him with a look similar to that of a baby who's glad to see a parent in the room. This surprised me because T, with his developmental delay, rarely engaged in eye-to-eye contact. At that moment, something tugged at my heart because I realized that despite the lack of thought process (or what I had previously thought he lacked), T felt and knew what tender loving care meant. I could not and dared not to imagine how he lived his life without the TLC of a parent. T's family had already given him up to the State. He was nonverbal so he couldn't complain of anything, and he didn't have a caregiver on the unit who could speak for him. Nobody could look after him but the nurses on the unit and Neil made sure that he was treated as everybody should despite the fact that he could not ask for his rights as a patient.
I remember Neil being T's nurse for almost every night he was working thereafter. I knew that Neil's list was always tiring, but Neil never complained, and I could see that even when he was tired, it was a joy for him to be able to take care of T. When T was finally discharged from the hospital, people said that he had a smile on his face while the transport people were rolling him out of the unit. People said that the smile was there because he knew he was going back to the familiarity of his group home. That might be true, but I knew deep in my heart that there were other reasons why he had that smile. I believe that Neil was one of the reasons. We would never find out the kind of care T received from Neil from T's point of view. If T could talk, I wouldn't be surprised if he said he was tended in an excellent way.
I was very surprised when I found out last year that after all these years working as a nurse, Neil has never been honored with a DAISY Award, or at least been nominated. He literally is a real-life unsung hero, someone who always does an awesome job but receives no recognition at all. He embodies the qualities of an outstanding nurse--he is smart, hardworking, compassionate, respectful, empathic, honest, and a great team player. He is the kind of nurse that you want for yourself or for your loved ones. And for less-seasoned nurses like me, he is the kind of nurse that you want to look up to. T could not nominate Neil even if he wanted to, but I can. I am nominating him because I have witnessed firsthand Neil's dedication to this profession and the kind of care he gives his patients. Everybody on our unit knows how great of a nurse Neil is, he is a true DAISY Nurse.