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A calm oasis in a time of crisis

May 4, 2010

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All the Nurses: Friends at the End

Woburn Nursing Center

As mother to a special needs son and daughter at the Francis St. nursing home in Woburn, I want to shout from the rooftops: Thank you, thank you, thank you. As I wander in and out of the nursing home daily, I see aides, secretaries, doctors, nurses, room cleaners, maintenance personnel, all doing their jobs. They not only do them well, they also have the personality, joy, and smiles necessary for this kind of work. As Alzheimer’s patients extend a feeble hand, they take it and guide them to where they should be. They listen continually to unintelligible babble and stories of long, long ago. They don’t interrupt, don’t turn and walk away, and don’t diminish the elderly. They listen, they giggle, they smile, and then they resume their job. In a very difficult situation of often end-of-life gloom, they keep up, keep positive, and keep the atmosphere and conversation light as much as possible. To all who care for those need assistance and help, I am indebted and appreciative. Thank you for never treating them less than you would want to be treated yourselves and for being the “angels amongst us all.”

—Nominated by Veronica Andrews

Sarah Gambee: An Oasis of Calm in a Crisis

Newton-Wellesley Hospital

January 15 was the most horrific day for my wife Stephanie and me. She was sent to the ER at Newton-Wellesley Hospital to receive fluids after a week of nausea and vomiting while away on business. After a few tests were run, we were told that dehydration was not the issue. We were dealing with Stage IV pancreatic cancer and we were quickly admitted to the fourth floor oncology unit to begin the most difficult days of our lives. We were scared and confused, but our 14-day stay was made easier by Sarah Gambee. Sarah demonstrated sincere compassion by always taking the time to talk to us and explain each procedure and medication one after another. Her knowledge in the field of oncology and wonderful clinical experience put Stephanie and me at ease. She answered all of the questions we had, and when she didn’t have an answer, she would find it. Sarah’s strong communication skills and compassionate care made all the difference to us. Stephanie seldom smiles now, but the mention of Sarah’s name makes her cheeks rise and a big smile always follows. We are 100 percent certain that there are similar stories from other patients about their nurses. We want Sarah to be one of those nurses saluted by us. Newton Wellesley-Hospital is very lucky to have such a wonderful, caring nurse on its staff.

—Nominated by Roger Allegro

Sheila Ainsworth: Quick in an Emergency

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital

I am 80 years old and have been a 15-year survivor of esophageal cancer (chemo, radiation, and then surgery), six years of breast cancer, and skin cancer. Sheila has been able to give me such support, care, and kindness during these times. In February, as I was entering St. Elizabeth’s for my three-month CAT scan, Sheila was walking briskly by the reception area. I was so excited to see her I called out. We hugged and chatted for a few minutes. While we were in conversation, there was a commotion in the hallway. Sheila, realizing that a man in a wheelchair was in great distress by his coloring and breathing, rushed to his aid calling loudly for a blood pressure monitor. She calmly unbuttoned his shirt to further examine him and suddenly yelled “Code 99.” Doctors and nurses flooded the area and their diagnosis was that the patient was having a major heart attack. Sheila rushed him to the emergency room for immediate attention. He was in ICU for a time, and is now recuperating at home. I feel that Sheila was his guardian angel that morning. This incident brought tears to my eyes as I watched ‘our’ Sheila administer immediate care to someone in distress. Not only has she watched over me, but she has also been invaluable to my dear husband, children, and grandchildren. Bless her.

—Nominated by Frances Sullivan

Howard Weiner: A Great Teacher

Bunker Hill Community College, Salem Hospital

I am a nursing student at Bunker Hill Community College, and the nurse I’d like to salute is Howard Frank Weiner. He began his career as a licensed psychologist. He realized early, however, that he was not able to offer his patients the complete spectrum of treatments that he envisioned. In short, he was missing something significant. That something turned out to be a sound theory and practice in nursing. He returned to school and obtained his RN and then his APRN. He is one of my professors. I also was fortunate to have him as a clinical instructor. Professor Weiner champions the needs of the psychologically infirm. He empathizes with and tries to understand this population as evidenced by his continuing quest for knowledge. He spends much time and energy educating us about the needs of this underrepresented and misunderstood population. Professor Weiner has inspired me to seek whatever resources are available in order to treat our patients with professionalism, compassion, empathy, and dignity. He maintains a private practice, lectures at BHCC, and is a clinical instructor at Salem Hospital. He makes it a point to be available to all his students by having an open office policy. By imparting his wisdom to us bright-eyed wannabes, he is enabling many more patients than he personally could ever treat to enjoy the same level of care and compassion that he displays each and every day. He is an outstanding role model and my hero. 

—Nominated by Scott Schocker

Maureen Duff: Hooray for Mother Moe

Brockton Hospital

Maureen has been an RN for more than 40 years. Her co-workers call her “Mother Moe” as she is their mentor and can nudge them along as only a mother can. She works full time on the night shift at BH, she gives “old school care” to every patient she meets. Her patients always give good feedback on satisfaction surveys; they feel loved and nurtured by her warmth. She is our moral compass and universally loved.

—Nominated by Kate MacKinnon

Malinda Miller and Michelle Trojano: Help after a Horrible Accident

Boston Medical Center (BMC)

I was hospitalized at BMC after being slammed in the forehead by a skim boarder while boogie boarding on Nantucket. I was diagnosed as a “transient” quadriplegic, since I started getting some level of functionality back. Malinda was wonderful, cheerful, and did her best in a very high-paced environment. When I was in surgery, she comforted my wife, since I was three and a half hours late coming out of the operating room. There were many, many nurses who were great, But Malinda’s spirit distinguished her. Michelle interacted with me at the end of my stay, when I had been moved out of the critical ward. Michelle also had a great attitude and cheerful spirit, which my wife and I looked forward to on her “days on.” I can’t tell you how appreciative you are of that cheer when you are struggling to relearn how to walk and feed yourself. I am now functionally recovered, but still am undergoing continual improvement in the condition of my spinal cord and the many symptoms that accompany that type of accident.

—Nominated by Donald Nowicki

Katie Heravi: An Unparalleled Medical Advocate

Department of Children and Families/Boston Regional Office

Katie Heravi is a nurse who acts as a medical resource and medical advocate for foster children in the care of the Department of Children and Families. She is the resource we call when we have questions about the medical care the children are receiving. She will find the answer to our questions and if we are pursuing a doctor on behalf of one of our charges, Katie will find the doctor, get an answer to our question, and report back with a recommendation. She actively tries to educate our office regarding medical issues, e.g., the flu pandemic. It is often very hard for busy social workers to penetrate medical bureaucracies to get answers to questions, to procure medical records, and to be able to give well informed permission for children to have medical procedures of one sort or another. Katie stays on hold when calling and does not let anything get in the way of what a child in our custody needs. She will find a way to speak to the specialist, she will make sure she understands and is able to explain to the social workers the pros and cons of a medical procedure, and she will make sure that social workers are well informed about all aspects of a child’s medical care. We really appreciate her hard work and her helpful nature. She is a strong ally to our children. She deserves much praise and admiration for her hard work.

—Nominated by Owen Bailey

Maureen Boyce: She Showers a Patient with Love

Massachusetts General Hospital—Ellison 7

I was hospitalized for a ventral hernia. After several complicated surgeries and an induced coma, I woke up three months later on Ellison 7 at MGH. When I awoke, I could not even lift my head off the pillow. My recovery has taken over 18 months and I am still under the surgeon’s care due to some complications and infections. Maureen Boyce is the reason I turned the corner and got well enough to come home. She was encouraging, compassionate, and showed me that I could do it, I could get better, and I would get my life back. I am crying as I type this because it brings back so many memories, good and bad. Maureen took care of me most of the 120 days that I spent on Ellison 7. I would always feel better when I knew she was going to be my nurse, especially in the beginning when I was so dependant on everyone. Maureen never lost her patience. I had not taken a shower in four months and when I could stand, Maureen undertook the task of helping me. The took most of her morning; she was as wet as I was and I know she squished around the remainder of the day in wet sneakers. She didn’t seem to care; she knew how much I needed it. She pushed me when I needed to be pushed and gave me the love and understanding I needed when I could not do anymore. I would have never turned the corner to better health if it were not for her. I will forever be grateful for how committed and experienced a nurse she is and how lucky I was to have her. I remember her and the rest of the staff on Ellison 7 when I say my prayers at night; I suppose I always will. How could I ever forget her face, the sound of her voice, her smile? Thank God for Maureen.

—Nominated by Susan Pappalardo