Angie Belk

Angela Belk

Angie Belk, RN

ICU
Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast
Concord, North Carolina
United States
Because of Angie, at least for a short time, this patient became more than just the homeless lady in room 2324, she became R, a lady with a background and a story and a life before she landed on her unit.

A seasoned nurse cares for patients all the time that come from various and different walks of life. Angie’s ability to adapt to any patient need is not anything new.

However, even she topped her own game just recently. The unit received a patient, R. R is a known homeless lady in the community, she travels with her little dog and lives in her car primarily. The police were called to check on R and her dog; the intense summer heat and living conditions seemed too much for them as R was noted by passerby folks to be unresponsive.

R was brought to CHS Northeast’s ER and found to be in respiratory failure. Her dog was taken to the pound and her car was impounded. Days and weeks later as R was getting more to her baseline, she became quite the challenging patient to care for. Her baseline is that of a traumatic brain injured person, down on her luck, mad at her family and the world, and worrying about and missing her dog something terrible! 

Her breathing status prevented her from getting too rambunctious or leaving AMA for the first few weeks; she was just too deconditioned, weak, and couldn’t breathe and fight staff at the same time too well. She succumbed to the staff to preserve her breathing. For a while, it was unclear if she could choose to leave AMA or if she could even make her own decisions. It turned out she could, after some neuro and psych evaluations and once she got some strength back.

Strength or not, she was quite the feisty little lady. Many on the team opted to change their assignments after a few shifts of caring for R. Angie ended up caring for R on more than a few occasions, and she eventually requested to have the “R assignment” back again and again. You see, R had met her match; Angie is known to be feisty and rambunctious a bit too! She kept thinking there was more to R than what meets the eyes. Angie sat down with R, and took time to hear her and understand her. R did have an old brain injury and a speech impediment, and regretfully, several on the healthcare team didn’t have the time to talk to R to really hear her and attempt to understand her. She did have some grandiose thoughts at times (i.e. ISIS controlling her monitors) and she did have a heavy speech impediment, but if you spent 15 minutes of time talking and listening to her, she did have a message and something to say.

Angie took this time. She didn’t let R push her away, and R tried! She didn’t let R frustrate her. She didn’t give up on R, as it seemed others around R had done in her life. Angie learned that R had held several jobs, even knew and was certified in medical terminology, had worked for a doctor, and was a well-known school teacher.

Angie checked into R’s little dog for R by calling the shelter. Her dog was named GB for “good boy.” She checked on R’s car for R. She kept her bathed and groomed and with clean scrubs to wear everyday as R wouldn’t wear a hospital gown. R would not eat in the bed because she hated the thoughts of food crumbs in her bed. She had much pride about her and her hygiene. 

When R regained her strength enough to leave, she did just that on her own terms. While we all wanted the best for R, she refused being placed in a home. She wanted to get her dog back and go back to her car and mind her own business. She left AMA, showing that feisty side one more time by throwing a coke bottle at the staff as she made her exit. 

When Angie learned she had left AMA, she knew the parking lot areas where R rotated living out of her car. She went to the parking lot and found R back to living in her car and minding her own business, which is how R wanted it to be.

Because of Angie, at least for a short time, this patient became more than just the homeless lady in room 2324, she became R, a lady with a background and a story and a life before she landed on her unit. 

Now, we may see R again, one day, which is very likely as she has some chronic health conditions. If she does come back to our unit, I hope she and Angie cross paths again. The mutual respect and understanding they had for each other was heartwarming to watch and is what we all want and deserve. 

Note: This is Angie's 2nd DAISY Award!