Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at University of Tennessee Medical Center

Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit Team

Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at University of Tennessee Medical Center

University of Tennessee Medical Center
Knoxville, Tennessee
United States
RN Leader – Angela Mills, BSN, RN, Clinical Nurse; Patti Rhyne, RN, Clinical Nurse; Heather Hiltbold, BSN, RN, CCRN, Team Leader Nurse; Abigail Coffelt, BSN, RN, Team Leader Nurse; Kristi Boggess, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Nurse Manager; Samantha Aikens, CNA

There are no words to describe how incredibly proud I was of this team when they all worked together to give precious memories to a mourning family.  The team admitted a critically ill patient and began the process of targeted temperature management on an unfortunate 31-year-old female.  As the days went by with waiting and testing, the staff became more involved with the sweet family.  This 31-year-old female was married with a newborn, as well as, 2 additional young children (5 and 8 years old).  She had a wonderful support system including her mother, father, two sisters and a multitude of friends praying for her recovery.

Just five days later, the family was given the unfortunate news that their loved one would not recover from her event.  One of the nurses approached me to ask what we could do for the family and the patient’s three young sons.  We quickly began calling around to see what resources were available for touchstones or some other memory keepsake.  We were unsuccessful in our endeavors, but the nurse was adamant to find something for this family.  Several of us sat around to brainstorm ideas.  Within minutes we had an idea, a plan, and assignments for the next day.  One nurse brought several white picture frames to hold the keepsakes, another nurse brought in scrapbooking paper and other equipment.  The staff obtained handprints from the patient.  One nurse found a poem to place with the patient’s handprints.  The health unit coordinator worked on the computer printout for a poem and stars with each person’s name.  The certified nursing assistant bought books, "I’ll Love You Forever", for each child.  Seven frames were created for her three children, her parents, both sisters and her husband.  As the family all came back to say final goodbyes to their loved one, the frames were presented to them as they came around the desk.

The family was extremely grateful for the nursing care and compassionate gesture by the team.  What this family doesn’t realize is the impact they had on all of us.  The love and support from her family and the community were overwhelming.  It’s unfortunate that we could not save her life, but we know she was able to give life to others.  Our hope is that we are able to give her family some peace, comfort and everlasting memory of her life.


I have been a nurse/team leader for 8 years, taken care of many sick patients, and been a part of death more times than I like to count.  Fortunately for me, I have never experienced having a loved one in my own hospital until a longtime childhood friend suffered a critical event at home.  She was pulseless for close to 40 minutes, and as you can imagine, the prognosis was very poor.

There are no words strong enough to accurately describe the pain and grief that followed.  I visited her many times.  I sat with her parents and sisters, holding her hand and praying she would miraculously wake up even though I knew that was not likely. She was under your care for six days and had it not been for your nursing staff, there is no way her family would have been able to get through those tormenting six days.  The first nurse I personally met was wonderful, amazing, caring, compassionate, patient and kind.  He spoke to the family as if it was his own, answering their incessant questions.  He never acted as though he had anything else to do except care for my friend (even though we know he had a million things to do).  The family recognized this, telling me how many times how much they loved him and how kind he was to them.  I am forever grateful to him.

The next nurse I met made it her mission to make handprints for my friend’s children once the decision was made to discontinue her life-support.  This nurse, along with the support of her co-workers, made seven frames with a handprint and quote they gave her three children, her parents, sisters, and husband.  You all went above and beyond!  You all have no idea how much that means to her family (and to me).  These are one of the few mementos her children will have to remember her by, as they are so young and do not fully grasp the gravity of the situation.  They even saved each of the boys a lock of her hair.  Thank you for letting her boys come to visit with her.  You will never know the impact you had on her family.

The Director of Regional Perinatal worked tirelessly trying to get Precious Prints so that her boys could all have a fingerprint when they get older.  She made several phone calls after getting off work to ensure we had enough kits.  She assisted with making the fingerprint molds, and personally drove them to the jeweler’s house so they would not get lost in the mail.  She even found a way to get a few extra kits at a discounted price, so her mother and sisters can also have a fingerprint charm. 

As a nurse and fellow UT team member, I have never been prouder to say I work with amazing people.  Please know that you all matter and you made a huge difference in someone’s life. Thank you all so much for caring for my friend as if she were your family.