When I was 3 years old, my mother passed away from
uterine cancer. I had become her built-in sidekick. I
went to her doctor appointments, chemo treatments, (and)
radiation, and I rubbed her bald head while she napped
on the couch. My dad always talked about how amazing the
nurses were and how they were always there to comfort my
mom and family. My dad put nurses on a pedestal, and I
knew that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. I think
initially I wanted to be a nurse to help people, then to
find out what my mom struggled through, then to
understand what happened and why, and now to help others
who are experiencing what cancer can do to a family.
My last clinical
rotation in nursing school was at Froedtert. I was
caring for a breast cancer patient and was doing hourly
checks, so I got to know her very well. I asked her what
the hardest part of her journey was, and she stated,
“Telling my grandkids that I was going to lose my hair,
I couldn’t play with them as much, and they would have
to wash their hands around me.” I asked her how she did
that, and she said she had a book. She told me the name
of the book was “Someone I Love Has Cancer.” Time
stopped in that moment. I thought my jaw hit the floor,
because my mom wrote that book. She wrote that book for
my siblings and me before she passed away, so we could
understand what cancer was in terms that made sense to
us. I told the patient all about the book, and she
shared more of her journey with me.
When I walked out
of the room and closed the door behind me, I got goose
bumps. At that moment I felt as though my mom was
telling me that I am where I belong. I belong here at
Froedtert, where she got her treatment, and I was born
to be a nurse.
Mindy Bartczak, RN, Emergency Department at Froedtert
Mindy Bartczak on her mom’s lap,
with her siblings and father
While at the
nurses’ station, I heard a patient’s wife sobbing. Her
young husband was dying of a brain tumor, and she was
overwhelmed. As she passed me, I felt compelled to
speak. I gently shared the loss of my husband to a brain
tumor 20 years earlier. I listened as she poured out her
fears. When she asked how I had survived, I told her my
story and saw peace settle over her. I will never forget
her. She is a reason my career is not just a job. It is
a mission of caring, hope and healing.
— Susan Kern, RN, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice
Every day, nurses
deliver care that eases patients’ minds during
challenging times, and they sometimes create moments
patients and their families will never forget.
registered nurse at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center,
recently helped create a moment for a woman named Nancy,
who was suffering from liver failure. Nancy was from out
of state and had very few visitors, which resulted in
tremendous sadness and loneliness.
that Nancy’s nail polish continued to chip away as her
length of stay increased, and she decided to do
something about it. During her lunch break, she went to
the hospital’s gift shop to buy Nancy nail polish. She
returned to the unit and decided to give her a manicure.
that Nancy loved Taylor Swift music, and throughout her
future shifts, she would play several songs for Nancy
and also taught her a dance to Swift’s “Shake It Off.”
Other nurses would join in, and smiles were infectious
across the unit.
Nancy was not able to receive a liver transplant before
she passed away, but weeks after her passing, her son
called and shared how much it meant to his mom that
Michelle and the nurses sang and danced with her while
she was so sick. He only wished that someone had a video
of her doing the dance.
taking the time to get to know her patients, none of
this would have been possible.
Michelle bring these moments to patients every day, and
for that, we’re all grateful for their work and
commitment to others.
— Mary Beth Kingston, RN, executive vice president
and chief nursing officer, Aurora Health Care
It was a tough
moment when our nursing team told a mother that her
critically injured son was not far enough along in his
recovery to be part of our coma recovery program.
continued to call us with updates, and 30 days later, he
was ready for our program. Her ongoing hope and optimism
inspired us all. Within weeks, her son moved on from our
program to the next care level.
When the mother
called to update me on her son’s progress, which
included that he was taking steps and regaining some
memory, I was reminded of how blessed I am to be
surrounded by skilled and dedicated nurses, doctors and
therapists who change lives in such moving ways. To be
part of that circle of care is the greatest gift.
— Linda Kroll, RN and admission liaison nurse, Sacred
Heart Rehabilitation Institute, part of Ascension
The first time I
met Chloe was shortly after she arrived at the cardiac
intensive care unit (CICU). I walked into the room to
help my co-worker, and the little girl in the crib
looked up at me with big, curious eyes. My co-worker
stuck a cotton swab deeply into her nose, a routine test
for viral infections, and tears streamed down Chloe’s
cheeks. She was so weak she didn’t even attempt to push
us away. I softly stroked her head and gazed into her
eyes. I was transfixed for a moment, not realizing I was
lingering, until I heard the nurse say, “That’s all” —
my cue to leave.
I wasn’t assigned
to care for Chloe until months later. She was living in
the CICU, tethered to an IV pole and relying on a
continuous infusion of medication to keep her alive,
waiting for a new heart. That morning, as I knelt on the
floor gently bathing her, Chloe’s mother asked if I
would be one of her primary nurses. I spent my 12-hour
workdays caring for her in the following months. It was
an emotional journey as I watched Chloe receive a donor
heart after months of waiting. Again, stroking her head
as she lay there while a ventilator and numerous
medications helped to keep her alive after the
her twin sister, who also needed a heart transplant,
took the room next door. I cared for these two sweet
babies as they fought for their lives with a tenacity
they will never be able to fully appreciate in
themselves. My mornings with the twins were often quiet,
but when their parents arrived after work I found myself
almost as excited as the squealing girls in my arms.
Between sharing the joys of strolling around the unit
with IV poles in tow, and the uncertainty when Chloe was
at her sickest, they began to feel like family.
It was with joy
and immense sadness that I helped pack up their
belongings and watched them drive away on a warm summer
morning — a family heading home together for the first
time in six months. In that moment I couldn’t stop the
tears that streamed down my own cheeks. The girls
received the life-saving gift of new hearts and had
taken a piece of mine too.
— Lindsey McDonald, RN and pediatric nurse,
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin