On the oncology unit at MPH, it is not uncommon for patients and families to leave lasting impressions on our hearts, but none compare to T, a 48-year old woman admitted to our unit with complications from cervical cancer, radiation, and chemotherapy. T was homeless and estranged from her family, but had an endearing sense of humor that won over her caregivers. In her almost 8-month stay on our unit, T became one of "the Witt 6 family". This could not have happened without the kindness and support provided by the amazing team of nurses and techs who are fortunate to call each other colleagues and friends.
Initially, T had a 1-month stay on the oncology unit; in addition to having a colostomy and a draining abdominal wound, she required placement of nephrostomy tubes. Her care became increasingly complex as her wounds leaked, causing severe skin irritation. The oncology nurses collaborated with the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses to creatively manage the drainage, and discharged T to our rehab center. Within a day's time, T returned to the oncology unit for a stay that lasted several months.
T would often cry inconsolably as pain management became a challenge. The oncology team did whatever it took to relieve the distress resulting from her multiple abdominal surgeries and draining wounds. This included hours of care spent changing dressings, titrating pain meds, holding T's hand, and providing words and acts of encouragement. When the Christmas holiday came, nurses provided gifts of a Christmas angel and new slippers. To help T improve her nutritional intake and gain weight, team members brought in yogurt and milkshakes even food T craved, like spaghetti-o's and chili cheese hot dogs, all at their own expense.
T was stuck in the hospital with no family, no money, rarely a visitor, and no anticipated discharge as no rehab facility would accept her with all her complications, drains, and tubes. The compassionate oncology team made time to take T outside in a wheelchair, sometimes twice daily, to feel the fresh air and see the ocean. They sat in her room and talked, helped her put on makeup, styled her hair, and painted her finger and toenails, something many of us take for granted. They brought her gifts of new pajamas, a robe, slippers, bandanas, and little trinkets to brighten her room. Some came in on their days off to sit with T so that she did not feel alone. Toward the end of T's stay on the oncology unit, she had to be moved to a different room. To lessen the trauma, the nurses brought in a small refrigerator (T never had her own refrigerator), and purchased curtains and accessories in T's favorite color red to decorate the room.
Finally, the day came when the doctors told T that her comfort was the optimal goal. T cried, hugged her caregivers, and said that she was afraid to leave us, as we had become her family. Arrangements were made to transfer T to hospice. To ease the transition, the team created a poster sized card, complete with pictures of her nurses and techs with well wishes. When the transfer day came, the team lined the hallway outside of T’s room, hugged, cried, and said their goodbyes. Afterwards, some of the team visited T at the hospice care center and brought her goodies, until she passed away two weeks later.
I am blessed to work with a team that demonstrates the heart of nursing and exemplifies our BayCare values of trust, respect and dignity. If not for the excellent, compassionate care the team provided to T, her last months would have been dramatically different. She truly felt like she had a family and thanked the team for being her "sisters" that she would never forget. These are true DAISY Nurses, who made a difference in the life (and death) of a patient.
As I think about leaving my Morton Plant family, it is hard to name all the many emotions I am feeling, but I am going to try. I have love and gratitude in my heart for each and every one of you who have helped to take such good care of me over the last several months. You held me when I cried, wiped away my tears, tried your best to cheer me up, showed great patience, came back day after day with loving kindness, visited me when I felt no one cared, took me outside to see the day, did my nails for me, cared for my pain and brought me gifts. You did not leave or forsake me.
You are my sisters and I will never forget your loving kindness. I will miss you and pray that you will keep me in your prayers, as I will pray for you.