Nomination Letters – Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Linda Abreu

We had no idea when we woke up on June 22, 2013, that our lives might be changed forever. My husband James had a massive heart attack in our home after returning from a bike ride. Boston EMS, out of the Faulkner Hospital, and Boston Fire, from the Canterbury Street station, worked heroically to get a pulse as he lay on the floor. After 30 excruciating minutes, they had a pulse and took him to Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Pinak Shah took my husband into the OR within minutes of our arrival. He found a complete blockage of the left anterior descending artery from a plaque rupture (aka, the widowmaker) and placed a stent in his artery to restore blood flow to his damaged heart. When James arrived in the Shapiro Cardiac Care Unit after surgery, Nurse Linda Abreu went to work. She rearranged furniture and equipment to give her optimal access to all the monitors and IV’s connected to my husband, her only patient. For the next 12 hours, she responded to every noise and beep while continually monitoring his medications, vital signs, and the cooling process that lowered his core body temperature to protect his brain. Every time she touched her comatose patient she told him what she was doing and treated him with remarkable respect and kindness. I’m not even sure that she took a bathroom break in those first 12 hours. She returned the next night and again worked just as tirelessly through the same long hours. Linda carefully explained what was going on to me, James’s terrified wife, which helped our family to get through those first horrific days. He would remain in the CCU for 10 days, under constant care managed by his excellent cardiologist, Dr. David Morrow.

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I wholeheartedly believe that Linda Abreu’s excellent nursing skills were crucial to my husband’s survival during those first days when his life was still very much in jeopardy. I would like to thank the many nurses and PCA’s who cared for my husband: Heather, Suzanne, Yolene, Mel, Robin, Marianne, Maureen, Tom, Sharon, Erin, Sheena, Kim, and Truong. It took all of these amazing medical caretakers to nurse my dear James, back to life. Eight months later, my husband has reclaimed much of his life. You are all part of our family now and forever. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

—Nominated by Kathleen Joint

Kristin Cardin

During the last year, Nurse Cardin has demonstrated her superb professional nursing skills by having the utmost respect and patience, always taking time to listen, and going the extra mile when needed. With her kind and understanding approach, the patient feels secure and confident in her medical knowledge. Never showing frustration, she may have to repeat things several times if the patient has hearing loss; she gives comfort to those who are scared. Speaking in her soothing voice, she never rushes the patient, making them feel as if they are her only patient. Being a nurse practitioner, she not only prescribes medicines, but she also explains any side effects or concerns the patient may have, never making the patient feel inferior for asking questions. If there was ever an example of the gold standard of nursing, Nurse Kristin Cardin is the epitome.

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—Nominated by Barbara Hutchings

Elaine Carlson, Kathy Moran, Winnie Briggs, Janet Frink

Our son Declan’s nurses were not just nurses. They were mothers, therapists, friends, and huge advocates for our family. They are truly the most amazing women we have ever met. Declan’s nurses gave us the most wonderful gift, 24 hours of pure joy at having our son home to be loved by his entire family, away from the hospital and the NICU. These nurses are warm, strong, funny, selfless, intelligent, and courageous people. Our hearts are forever with them; those 24 hours gave us a lifetime of memories.

—Nominated by Jessie and Sean Guilfoy

Pat Cobb

Late in the evening on Oct. 24 last year, our daughter Cordelia was born five weeks premature at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (I recall that game two of the World Series was on in the delivery room). There was much confusion and worry on our part, and our nurse Pat showed so much compassion and love toward Cordelia, treating her as if she were her own child. The 12 days Cordelia was in the NICU, Pat answered every question. We felt so comforted to know that Cordelia was in great hands. I can never thank her enough.

—Nominated by Ellen Adams

Tricia Conlon

Tricia helped me through a minor surgical procedure that I was very anxious about. She made me laugh and calmed me down with her manner. She also goes the extra mile for the people of her neighborhood. Whenever anybody needs a nurse, Tricia is there for them. A neighbor lost her husband at a very young age and she was there all the time to support the family.

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—Nominated by Martha Savino

Karen Green

Karen Green is an exceptional NICU nurse, who gave exquisite care to countless sick babies and their families for over 30 years. At her recent retirement party, nurses Karen had coached and precepted who are now expert NICU nurses reflected how much she had inspired their love of nursing. However, the last guest to speak, a former NICU mom, shared that Karen’s care of her sick twins had such impact on her that she went back to school and became a NICU nurse. What a legacy!

—Nominated by Marianne Cummings

Maureen Hanley

Maureen Hanley saved my life. When I was at my worst and believing that it was over for me, Maureen was there. It was not only Maureen’s exceptional level of care that brought me solace and relief but with that, she gave her heart. She was there for me every step of the way. In July of 2013, I underwent surgery for gastric cancer.

Because I can’t take narcotics due to migraines, my pain level, and thus, heart rate, was extremely high. As my heart rate continued to escalate, Maureen was, of course, all over it. It seemed like there were three of her. Maureen was at my bedside providing me comfort, then on the phone and in person discussing my situation with the doctors, and also explaining to my husband what was happening. Maureen was making sure everyone was on the same page in order to address my issue. Clearly, she’s a great communicator who can, at the same time, handle the urgent situation with a sense of calm, love, and compassion. Honestly, I don’t know how nurses handle all the pressure of dealing with doctors, the patient, and family, but they do. Guardian angels for sure. I look back on those days, and though they were extremely tough, I smile because I was so blessed to have met Maureen. While Maureen was my nurse, she is now my dear friend. Quite simply, I can’t imagine my life without her. Maureen brings sunshine into your life. What could be better than that?

—Nominated by Anita Presmarita

Kate Higgins

Kate Higgins was our son’s primary nurse when he was born three months premature. She is so dedicated and passionate about her work, we were thrilled to have her on our team. We were nervous about bringing our precious baby, with chronic lung disease, straight from the NICU onto a plane back to Denver. Kate selflessly volunteered to fly back with us and even went to our first pediatrician’s appointment. Such a comfort to have such an incredible nurse and friend those first few days. We think the world of Kate.

—Nominated by Allison and Pieter Warnery

Mary Knust-Graichen

Mary is the nurse practitioner in my breast surgeon’s office. Last summer I was convinced that I had chest wall metastasis of my breast cancer. I went up see Mary and she gave me a complete exam, and then discussed my feelings and concerns, assuring me that I was OK. I kind of gave her a hard time because I was scared, but she calmed me down and made me feel so much better. I did finally have a PET scan, ordered by my oncologist, which was negative and I went back to see Mary. She always showed me great compassion and understanding and was so very patient with me, explaining every detail. She is such a wonderful nurse practitioner.

—Nominated by Barbra I. Tugman

Lisa Kromer

Before going beyond the call of duty, you first have to answer it. Lisa spent the last three years at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany as a civilian nurse caring for injured servicemen. She did so because they deserve the best nurses, and our military needed civilian help. She was working the night that people injured in Benghazi arrived. Another time, she diagnosed in a patient a stroke the doctors had missed. Please honor her and the sacrifices she made. In doing so, we can recognize all of the civilian nurses at Landstuhl who are helping our injured servicemen come home alive.

—Nominated by Mark Cormer

Courtney Murphy

I had the privilege of observing the many accomplishments of this amazing young woman, including her professional attention to me several months ago. I was an extremely ill patient at Brigham and Women’s ICU where Courtney is employed. My prognosis was grave. I was completely septic and my organs were shutting down. Courtney was notified by my husband of my admission via a med-flight from our summer residence in Maine. The hospital there, which had admitted me 24 hours earlier, could do nothing more for me.

After regaining consciousness, I learned that Courtney had managed my care at the Brigham, working 12-hour overnight shifts, coming in early, and staying late. She was able to situate me on a more intensive “private’’ floor to help with my miraculous recovery. She calmed my fears, explained what had happened, and provided the support and encouragement needed for me to be able to live. Her professionalism was above and beyond what is ordinarily provided.

I was able to watch her interactions with other patients and co-workers, and she demonstrated this same caring attitude with all. I was told that Courtney was awarded the one nursing tuition scholarship the Brigham grants each year to help with her graduate studies towards becoming a nurse practitioner.

Everyone always knew Courtney possessed talent for incredible achievement. From the time she was very young, she participated in community activities, including feeding the elderly. When she was in high school, she would walk to Children’s Hospital on a weekly basis to volunteer. She also volunteers in women’s shelters and is the first to step forward to man a blood drive or head up another needy cause. While Courtney was at Boston College Nursing School, she was elected by her peers as class president and earned 2 of the 10 awards given at graduation. Courtney told me of being accepted into a volunteer, self-pay mission, going with 20 other R.N.’s and N.P.’s to provide care for the extreme poor in a village in Santo Domingo. She had to forfeit two weeks’ vacation, raise all expense and airfare dollars, and procure a hundred pounds of medical supplies to bring with her, just to be accepted.

As of this writing, she was still in Santo Domingo, caring for and helping the poor.

—Nominated by Elizabeth Hirshom

Steph Mitchell

Steph Mitchell was our nurse when our son Evan was born in May, 2013. We went into labor early and rushed to the hospital. The early birth was a very difficult experience and we cannot imagine it without the support and guidance from Steph. She is a true professional, and you can tell she genuinely takes pride in serving her patients. Her humility only made it that much more impressive. We could not be more grateful to her and the staff at B&W.

—Nominated by John and Alexis Zibell

Cailin Pagel

I often think of Cailin, the first nurse assigned to me after major back surgery. It was as if an angel had been sent to protect me. Cailin’s care was like a daughter’s for her mum. She greeted my family and visitors with a smile, made sure they were comfortable and had seats, and got water pitchers for flowers that also needed love. She always apologized when she thought something might hurt. Her visits, even when not scheduled as my nurse, were remarkable. “Just checkin’ on you!’’ she’d say. I will never forget her. Ever. Neither will my family. A true angel.

—Nominated by Penny Stone

Lodi Podoloff

For the past 30 years, my mom has awakened at 5 a.m. to get ready for work as a NICU nurse. When I was a child, I would hear her wake up and I’d tiptoe out of my bed. I’d listen until I heard the front door shut, and then I’d climb onto my bookcase, open the blinds, and wave goodbye to her as she drove off. One night my mom had tucked me into bed, and, per usual, I got up to tell her that I couldn’t sleep. After searching our small house for her, I found her sitting on the steps down in the basement, crying. I vividly remember the tears running down her smooth cheeks as she pulled me onto her lap and explained that one of the baby boys in the NICU had gone to heaven. That night was the first time my mom ever talked to me about death. My mom attended the funeral, and to this day we receive a holiday card from the family, each of their children named in honor of their son in heaven.

Their card isn’t the only card we’ve received from families remembering my mom and the impact she had during the crucial first months of their children’s’ lives. Death is a part of life, and my mom handled it with love, as she does everything. She truly adopts her patients, welcoming them into her heart. Sometimes in the NICU she faces ethical obstacles involving decisions to continue care or let the baby peacefully go. In every decision, my mom is objective and logical, yet compassionate and understanding. She listens to the parents in the unit, making them feel comfortable during a very unstable and scary period as they watch their babies fight for their lives.

My mom deserves to be recognized for her dedication, passion, and love for her work in the NICU. She is by far the most selfless woman I know. Her confidence and strong sense of self is inspiring. She is not only an incredible role model for my sisters and me, she is a role model to all of the nursing staff in the unit. She truly is an unsung hero and I am grateful to call her Mom.

—Nominated by Nicole Podoloff

Stephanie Shine

Stephanie Shine is an expert neonatal nurse. In July, she gave birth to a 26-week-old baby named Sam, who had a profoundly rocky NICU course. Stephanie’s courage and grace were an example to us all as she straddled the roles of NICU mom and NICU nurse. She even created a brief, inspirational video about Sam’s journey to educate the public, raise funds ($11,000) to prevent prematurity, and to provide an enormous ray of hope for other families. Shine on, Stephanie.

—Nominated by Marianne Cummings

Cheryl Solomon

Cheryl has been there for me in very difficult times. I had been a patient elsewhere and they ignored a problem I was having, but she did not ignore me. She pursued the problem and avoided the terrible consequences that would have eventually happened. She always makes me laugh when I need a chuckle. She’s an excellent nurse, and I’m so happy to have her as my caregiver.

—Nominated by Rose Chioccola

Jackie Somerville

I was a patient in the Emergency Department this past February and was visited by Jackie, who was performing two rounds simultaneously, one for care and one for the care environment, ensuring that everything was up to high standards. I was so impressed that the chief nurse was concerned not only about patient care, but also about the care environment. This is a nurse going beyond the call of duty.

—Nominated by John Sullivan

Heather Starr

My twin babies were born unexpectedly at just 27 weeks. We lost one of the babies. It was a really difficult time for us but we had an amazing nurse at NICU. Heather took exceptional care of our baby during her 72-day stay there. She made the whole NICU journey a lot easier than we excepted. Heather gave us the hope and encouragement that we needed. No amount of thank you can express how grateful we are to you, Heather, for choosing to care for our 1 lb. 12 oz. baby and for the amazing selfless work you do.

—Nominated by Sedina Giaff

Pia Young

Since I was diagnosed 40 years ago with severe psoriatic arthritis, my health problems have increased: joint replacement, many skin cancer and molts surgeries, diabetes, and several different heart problems. All of these have required many hospital stays, doctors’ visits, X-rays, medications, and more.

Since my daughter, Pia Young, received her R.N., B.S.H., she has worked at Brigham and Women’s where all my physicians are. Now here I am, age 89, and Pia is still my caring caregiver; my nurse. Her constant concern for me is evident in her communication with all my doctors and in her patience explaining to me their recommendations for treatment. To me, one of her very best nurse (and daughter) talents is to explain and discuss thoroughly with me what treatment is recommended by my doctors. Pia NEVER tells me what I should do; she and the doctors always know the decision is mine.

My love for Pia has been there since she was born. My admiration for her as a nurse increases all the time. Living as I do in an assisted living facility, I realize daily how very fortunate I am to have Pia give me this loving medical care. Along with my physicians and so many other nurses, I know my daughter Pia is responsible for my turning 90 in May.

—Nominated by Claire Young

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