A few days before Christmas 2010, a homeless veteran was admitted to our unit. As with most homeless people, this veteran had trust issues, but he was able to establish a limited but trusting relationship with a few nurses. Throughout his stay, we tried to have these same nurses care for him.
As is often the case, the night shift ordered out for dinner. They asked the patient if he would like to order. He did, but he had no money. Don’t worry the nurses will cover the cost. He enjoyed his take out. He, also, ate ice cream, toast and jelly throughout the night and even enjoyed homemade goodies the staff brought in for the holidays.
Christmas Eve, of course, there was a Christmas tree on the unit, all decked out. This patient had no visitors. What was he going to do or get on Christmas morning? One night nurse called in to speak to the veteran’s day nurse: ‘Ask him what he would like for a snack tonight. I’ll bring it in’. So he was asked and an order was given. Betsy Towner then braved Kmart at 6pm on Christmas Eve! What was doing there? She had to report to work at 645! She was shopping for our patient! She bought him sweat pants, a sweat shirt, a couple of long sleeved shirts, a package of socks, and filled a Christmas stocking with candy, deodorant, gum, etc. After all, what’s Christmas without a stocking to peek into? She also brought in the fixings for a BLT- his requested snack for the night, as well, as chips, Sprite, and a large platter of homemade goodies. Our patient fell asleep with a full belly. While he slept, the RN was able to wrap all his gifts and fill his stocking. Sometime after midnight, the RN left his pile of gifts on his night stand. Our patient did not open the gifts first thing in the morning. He just kept staring at them. Finally, he opened them and donned the sweatpants and a shirt immediately. We saw him nibbling on his snacks throughout the day. He still has no idea where these gifts came from. Who knows? Maybe he believes in Santa Clause again.
A few days later when our veteran was discharged, he took all his new items with him and told his nurse that day ‘Please thank everybody who was so kind to me. Thank you for the gifts, and for caring about me’.
This act of kindness is just one example of Betsy Towner cares for our patients at MaineGeneral. She has worked at Thayer since the 80’s and is known for her generous and giving spirit. She sets a great example.