During the years of providing care and comfort to hundreds of patients needing our help. There is on occasion a patient and/or family that somehow makes such an impression that you allow them to creep into your heart to remain there forever.
That was the case this year on 6 West. We had the privilege of caring for a patient with a frightful diagnosis. This wonderful gentleman and his amazing wife and family came to St. Joseph's from the eastern Florida coast to have surgery and hopefully obtain a cure. As with many cases, his progress to wellness did not go as planned. This patient's journey contained several surgeries and very painful procedures causing frequent admissions to our unit with some admissions lasting more than a month. During these times his wife spent almost every minute at his side. As you can imagine this put a horrible emotional strain on the patient and his family. He was unable to see his children frequently due to their school and other responsibilities on the other side of the state.
Knowing that caring for a patient's emotional health is just as important as pain control, medication administration and many times uncomfortable dressing changes, the entire staff of 6 West including our managers, nurses, patient care techs, HUCs, social workers, case managers, dietary techs, and our housekeepers, would stop in to check on this husband and wife team dealing with this situation with grace and bravery that would break most of us. We adopted this family as our own and with that adoption came the responsibilities very team-member feels for their own family.
The 6 West team made sure that information and updates were provided, time was given to answer questions without allowing the patient or family to feel as if they were imposing on our time. Sometimes we just would offer a hug or the holding of hands and listening to their fears and concerns.
I remember a particular Saturday and even though there was the perfect sunny Florida day outside the windows, the minute I walked into this patient's room, I immediately knew something was different. The patient and his lovely wife, greeted me as with a welcoming hello and smiles, but their smiles seemed to be a little forced and they spoke in subdued voices. Concerned about what might have changed during my days off I went to the nurse caring for him that day.
What I found out was that his physicians had told them that he needed yet another surgery scheduled for Tuesday and that in their professional opinion this was going to be the last one. Concerned about what this surgery could do to his waning strength and ability to fight, everyone was worried about what might happen. On top of this, our patient was feeling down because his children and dog were unable to make the trip across the state to visit with him prior to surgery, due to them having to deal with being sick with colds. His wonderfully thoughtful nurse caring for the patient that day hatched a plan with the patient's wife to text some pictures of their family, including the dog to the nurse. This nurse, in turn, had the pictures printed on a colored printer, where she, her tech, and a few others designed a picture collage. Included on the collage they placed words of encouragement, such as Faith, Hope, Believe, Survivor, and Love. The nurse also had a family member who happened to have a therapy dog and was here for a visit this same weekend.
So, it was arranged that the staff working that day, along with the collage and the therapy dog all gathered in our patient's room, giving him the collage, words of encouragement, hugs and time with the therapy dog in the hope we could raise his spirits at least a little.
Tuesday came, our patient went to surgery, and as is common with involved cases he was admitted to the ICU post-op for at least overnight. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned and this much-loved patient passed away during the night. His wife, a few days later, texted the nurse who had cared for her husband that Saturday. In her text she said that when the time came to start her journey home that night, she looked back at St. Joseph's Hospital and said to herself that not only was she leaving the love of her life behind but also her "6 West family". She commented that both were almost equally painful to bear.
This is just one sample of what you will find going on every day on 6 West. My awe-inspiring team members have managed to resist the temptation to get so involved in what tasks they need to accomplish before the end of their shift that they forget there are real people and families on our unit needing not only our physical care but also our compassion, tolerance, and understanding that they are scared of the unknown, needing someone to help them understand what's going on, and offering tolerance of a patient's feelings plus providing an atmosphere where the patients and families in our care feel comfortable to vent and express their fears.
My St. Joseph's Hospital 6 West teammates live BayCare's values of trust, dignity, respect, responsibility, and excellence every day and to every patient.