When Richardson joined our team and night shift on Street 5, I knew instantly that we had been blessed with a nurse that would do wonderful things. He was hard-working, paying attention to detail no matter how small it may seem to others, compassionate, gentle, humble, and soft-spoken. He observed his peers, asked appropriate questions and became a team player. I have watched him interact with his patients and he is always kind, considerate and attentive. He can make a person feel at ease and speaks to them with respect and an understanding of their needs, not only with his words but his body language. He is the nurse you would want to take care of your mother, father, grandparents or loved one. He provides care from the center of his heart, from his soul. This is not a job to him. This is who he is.
Erika is employed through staffing and has worked Street 5 on many weekends. She has become such a frequent face to me on night shift that she is missed when her staffing assignment does not bring her to Street 5. She has also been a blessing to us as she is competent, hard-working, and very sensitive to the needs of the patients and their families. Just as Richardson, she has soft words, kindness toward her patients, and practices with her heart and soul. This should not surprise anyone though, as she and Richardson are married. They are partners in life, coworkers bound by their love for each other and a passion for caring for others.
On September 1, 2013, Richardson and Erika were driving from Lakeland to Winter Haven Hospital for their scheduled work assignments when their vehicle was behind a truck that struck another vehicle causing both vehicles to roll and injuring 4 people, 3 critically (two aged 10, and one age 8).
Both Richardson and Erika jumped out of their vehicle, worked very hard to release the children from the back seat and proceeded to perform CPR. Richardson called from the road to tell us that he would be late due to an accident. We all thought it was traffic that was keeping them from being on time; none of us thought it was because they were working at providing breaths, chest compressions and prayers to save children.
When they arrived to work, they were worn, beaten, sweating, with residual blood on them. Their hearts were broken and their souls saddened as the two 10-year old girls had passed at the scene. Richardson told me that it took a long time to get the children out of the car; they assessed the victims and his wife had even given breaths by cupping her hands to provide a barrier. The loss back in Auburndale was huge as they kept repeating, "they were just little girls." We all reassured them that they did all they could; sometimes these things are in a higher power's hand. They were heroes to us and we were so proud of them.
Yes heroes, professional, top-of-the-line caregivers, compassionate, team players they are, for they went into the break room, washed their hands and faces, tidied up their clothes and took a deep breath and came out to the floor and accepted their assignments and went on to work their 12-hour shifts. Well, maybe work is not the right word; these two went on and delivered the same quality, compassionate, loving care as they always do. Through their shifts and through a police officer visit to the floor where they had to give statements, not a patient, a worker, or visitor, knew what these two nurses had just experienced.
I watched them that night and I thought back to my first impressions of them. They have something special. Something deep in a person's soul for caring for others that sets them apart. Something you cannot always put your finger on but just know they are different.
Nursing is not a job for Richardson and Erika. They do not clock out and leave it there and go home. They carry their life's dedication to caring for others with them, in their hearts, in their souls. It is who they are. I am proud to work alongside these two wonderful nurses. I am proud of their strength and commitment to caring for others. They are among WHH's finest employees and our community is blessed to have them.