“I held her hand”

On Wednesday of this week I had the honor of doing a presentation at the annual conference of the Missouri Association of Public Administrators.  When I finished my presentation and before I left the stage one of the audience members said “I want to tell you something about your hospital”.  When I hear something like this I never really know what’s coming next but what came next was one of the biggest compliments anyone associated with GVMH could have received.

The woman who spoke told me that she wasn’t from Clinton but her aunt was in a nursing home here at one time.  While in the nursing home her aunt fell and broke her hip and was transported to GVMH for treatment.  She explained that her aunt was elderly and had multiple health problems and they knew surgery would be risky but it had to be done to make her comfortable.

Her aunt had her hip repaired and was transferred to ICU after surgery.  Her condition continued to decline and it became apparent that the outcome they feared was inevitable.  The woman went on to explain that when she finally came to terms with the fact that her aunt was dying the staff in the ICU touched her in a way that caused her to feel compelled to share this story with me in front of a room full of strangers.

She shared with the audience that staff in the ICU brought a CD player into the room so that her aunt could listen to the Christian music she was fond of even though she was unresponsive.  She also shared that staff went out of their way to make her, and her aunt, comfortable by keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, offering food and drink and limiting noise.

She went on to explain that 9:00 pm rolled around and she had been sitting at her aunt’s side most of the day and she was exhausted.  She was reluctant to leave because she didn’t want her aunt to be alone should something happen but at that time her aunt’s condition had actually started to improve.  She talked with her aunt’s physician and nurse and the three of them agreed that her aunt would probably hang on for at least another day so she decided to go home and get some rest.

At 11:30 pm that same night the woman said her phone rang and it was the nurse she’d talked to just two and a half hours earlier, the nurse said to her “Your aunt passed away a few moments ago.  I want you to know that she was comfortable and she wasn’t alone.  My shift ended at 11:00 and I wasn’t in a hurry to leave so I sat in your aunt’s room and listened to music with her.  I was at her side holding her hand and praying for her when she passed”.

I didn’t do the story justice, the woman shared it with much more conviction and passion than I did and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when she finished.  I thanked her for sharing her story and I asked if she remembered the nurses name because I wanted to share with her the impact she’d made.  The woman sat silent for a few moments, she dropped her head and said “I told myself I’d never forget her or her name but for the life of me I can’t remember her name and I feel terrible about that”.

I replied to her with these words; “There’s no reason for you to feel bad, you haven’t forgotten that nurse and now no one in this room will forget her either.  Names don’t matter, what we do matters and people remember what we do.  That nurse didn’t hold your aunt’s hand because she wanted you to remember her name, she held your aunt’s hand because she cares and I’d like to think that all of our staff would do the same”.

If you’re the nurse in this story, thank you, your name may have been forgotten but your actions never will be.

If you’re a different nurse, therapist, technician, physician, clerk, engineer, administrator, director, secretary, food service worker, processor, paramedic, housekeeper, aid, assistant, bookkeeper or volunteer who has held, or would hold, a hand in the same situation, thank you as well.

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Operating Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. These are challenging and exciting times in healthcare and my blog will focus on healthcare, raising boys or being raised by boys, and living in mid America.
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2 Responses to “I held her hand”

  1. Amy says:

    Unfortunately, I have to say I do not get the opportunity to read all your blogs. The title of this one, however, caught my eye. I have to say it’s one of the best blogs to date in my opinion. Kudos to this nurse and all the fine staff at GVMH. What an amazing story of caring and compassion. And how nice of that woman to share her story in a setting such as you described…

  2. Jim Begin says:

    Wow!

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