Extraordinary Nurse seems like an understatement when referring to this nurse. She does extraordinary work with patients and families who are in need of Palliative Care. She provides loving guidance, kind understanding and compassion to patients and families facing a most difficult time, serious illness and end of life. I would like to share with you an example of the type of extraordinary nursing care this nurse, Marie Conner, provides.
A 28-year old woman, I will call her "Sue", returned to San Martin in February of 2015. She is well-known to Marie and the whole Palliative Care team, for she has visited SRDH quite a lot in the last year. She had been battling a malignant brain tumor for the last couple of years. She tried surgery and experimental chemotherapy treatments to extend the time she would have with her seven year old son. Sue had been living with her aunt after she divorced her husband. Her aunt, who I will call "Sally", absorbing the roles of caregiver, surrogate mother, breadwinner, housekeeper and power of attorney for Sue.
During this last admission, it became apparent that Sue was in the last few days of her life. Sally was grieving and trying to gather all the family members from out of state. Marie worked with Sally daily discussing hospice, reviewing the agencies in town, providing a comfortable safe environment for Sally to share her fears and struggle about the choices with which she was presented. Sally researched the recommendations and chose Nathan Adelson because of their experience with children and grief.
That Monday, the decision had been made to move to hospice, but then the primary doctor concerned about the transport offered hospice at the hospital. Sue's parents thought that would be best, her ex-husband was just angry about the entire situation, Sally wanted the best for Sue, but also was worried about her son, for he had not been able to hug his mom in over a month because of all the medical equipment attached to her. The situation became chaotic very quickly, with each family member having a different opinion of what was best. Marie held a couple of family conferences, providing mediation for the family, clarifying misunderstandings, while providing support for Sally in her efforts to do what Sue would want for her son. She spoke with all the doctors involved to clarify "why" the move to hospice was so imperative, for it was Sue's wish to NOT die in the hospital, and to have support for her son after she was gone.
On Tuesday, Marie started the day with the goal of making Sue's final wish a reality. The clock was ticking, and time was running out. Marie utilized her resources within St. Rose Dominican leadership and Nathan Adelson Hospice leadership to smooth the transition, assuring that all equipment needed was waiting for Sue upon arrival and that the hospice physician and the child grief specialist would be present to assist the family.
At noon, all the necessary paperwork was signed and transport arranged for late that afternoon. Marie spent several hours with the family, reassuring Sally that she was doing the right thing to advocate for her niece's last wishes. Marie helped Sue's father talk through his heartache. He was struggling with grief and feelings that he was killing his daughter by "giving up." By the end of the day, Marie had softened their fears and provided comfort in a most uncomfortable situation.
Sue arrived at hospice about 5:30PM Tuesday night, and the skilled physician and nurses worked quickly to get Sue settled and comfortable. All visible medical "stuff" was removed. Sue's mother was able to help the nurse with her daughter's last bath. The grief counselors worked with Sue's parents, while the child specialist worked with her son. In the next few hours, her son was able to accept standing beside her bed, then holding his mama's hand. About midnight he was comfortable enough to crawl up into the bed next to his mama, hug her, hold her and cry. Sue's father was able to tell his daughter how much he loved her. Sally knew she did the right thing for her dear niece, Sue, and her precious son. Everyone was able to say goodbye in a peaceful, quiet, respectful environment.
Sue left this world early that Wednesday morning as her mother and son slept on the couch next to her bed. Sally was holding her hand. There was peace for Sue and the family in those last few hours. Marie Conner made this a reality for her patient. Is there anything more extraordinary than making a last wish a reality, or giving a son the gift of holding his mama one last time, or easing a grieving father and mother's fears, or helping an aunt find her strength to pull the family together during a crisis?
Marie Conner is a "Daisy" alright - bright, beautiful and extraordinary.