My son, M, a 44-year-old with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities, was admitted to CMC ICU in April. Though M is no stranger to CMC, given that he has been hospitalized 30 times, racking up more than 150 days since 2015, most of them related to respiratory failure and pneumonia caused by aspiration, this was the most stressful, challenging, and life-changing visit since our journey began. During this time, M had pneumonia twice and 3 surgeries, one to place a J/G tube, one to check the tube placement, and one to insert a pacemaker, among countless other procedures.
While his dad, R, and I cannot say thank you enough to the entire CMC staff for the exceptional care we as a family has received over the years, one ICU nurse went above and beyond for M, Christina Martinez. Christina and M became buddies. His whole face would light up when Christina came into the room. He would turn to the sound of her voice and watch her every move as she attended to him. Christina spent hours talking with us about M and his lengthy medical history. She said that he was the most interesting and complex patient with a beautiful smile that she had ever encountered in her nursing career.
Eating food, chewing and drinking were always the simple pleasures M especially enjoyed daily. To say that he looked forward to the next meal or snack is an understatement, even in the hospital. Going “cold turkey” and being deprived of this one pleasure was an especially agonizing process, not just for M but for his family as well. M has also been a lifelong chewer on sheets, towels, blankets, soft toys, and any object that he could get into his mouth. Obviously, oral gratification took on a heightened meaning during this transition period.
Christina recognized how important it was for M to satisfy his oral needs. She raided the oral swab cabinet, searching out flavored ones. She and M decided lemon was the best as he would smack his lips and groan with satisfaction when Christina cleansed his lips and mouth multiple times a day. Since M was going through stacks of wash clothes, towels, and chew toys daily, Christina brought him a blue monkey with multiple chewing appendages and a blue caterpillar. Those two toys became instant favorites. I’m sure visitors thought they were entering a zoo or a circus with all the chew toys lined up to be dried out, scattered around the room.
Christina shared that she was considering using M as a “case study” for one of her nursing classes and would need to follow up on him after he left the hospital. Needless to say, we gave our blessing to this project. Christina is an exceptional nurse, full of compassion, always thinking outside the box, providing her own special touch that meant so very much to M and us during his ICU stay.