My brother L was admitted to Surgical ICU following a devastating motor vehicle crash that resulted in the loss of his wife, daughter, and brother. L arrived a very broken man, in more ways than one, and I believe he received care beyond outstanding here at KU. During his lengthy stay, he endured seven operations, continuous dialysis, multiple broken bones, paralysis, and life-threatening blood pressure issues. He was discharged to a Rehab Hospital almost 2 months later and it is there where he continues to travel on his journey to recovery. I fully appreciate that care in a Surgical ICU involves and requires a huge team of talented, skilled healthcare staff, no one more important than the next. I want to shine a light on this nurse who was exemplary in her care of L and also in the care of me and L’s two sons, ages 16 and 18. Sharon Brown. Sharon is smart, tough (when she needs to be), real, a great listener, a knowledgeable educator and a master of prioritization. She made time for me whenever I need it and was able to explain the whole picture to me in a way that I could understand. She held me up when I was falling apart. Sharon was everything to me – an advisor, an encourager, a person whom I could trust at all times. Sharon would listen to my pain and say, “Let me take a look at him and then let's talk.” Her brilliance as a caregiver was just what L needed, and it was just what the rest of us needed too. Her assessments and recommendations were listened to and followed by everyone on his care team because of her expertise and professionalism. On L’s worst nights, Sharon would take him as her assignment that night. Sleep for me was a bit easier on those nights; knowing that I could trust Sharon with my brother’s life. The morning of the funeral for L’s wife and daughter, I went to see L before I left town. Sharon knew what was happening that day, and she guided me into L’s room to show me something. On her request, my brother raised both of his arms, something he had never done before. He heard her instructions and he reacted. It was the first time he had done this since coming to the hospital, and I am certain she worked with him all night to do this. Sharon knew I needed something to go home with that day, and I still consider this a special gift. Sharon would always tell me, “He’s a good guy, P. He is getting our best.” One night, the consent for another surgery needed to be signed. I couldn’t bring myself to sign it because I wasn’t sure L would survive. I told the resident about my trepidation and declined to sign it at that moment. I needed to talk to Sharon. She listened to my fears and understood. She found L’s surgeon and he found time to come to me and explain why the surgery was important and when the best timing would be. With Sharon holding me up, I signed the consent; it was the right thing to do. Sharon was the smarter sister I needed. She was family then and remains family now.
Sharon epitomizes what we hope each and every one of our nursing professionals can convey to those they care for. When I teach customer service to new employees, I tell them that patients and families have two basic needs: We need to feel safe and we need to feel like people care. I simply couldn’t have had a stronger sense of both of those things during L’s time in the Surgical ICU. I will forever be grateful for the expert care he received, and I will never forget the expert care provided to his family as well.