Thursday, October 28, 2010

Two Amazing Ladies.

I was lucky enough to go to dinner with two amazing nurses who will always hold a special place in my heart.  They were nominated (by me) for a very special nursing award.  Check out a few pictures below and of course, read their nominations.

The first entry below is about Wilma Guilbeau--on the right above.

In my opinion, there is no higher honor in the Kansas City nursing community than to be nominated for the Heart of Healthcare award.  And, throughout my professional career as a nurse, I have had the opportunity to know many good nurses.  However, I have had the privilege of working with and knowing one that is exceptional. 
                Wilma Guilbeau has been a fixture of the University of Kansas Hospital Emergency Department for over 20 years.  There, she has provided exceptional care to thousands of patients and has been part of a team that has also saved thousands of lives.  She provides a level of care that is heads above many of her colleagues and difficult to match.  Wilma expects only the best from herself as well as her colleagues.  Each shift, she models to others the ways that care should be given.  She treats each patient with dignity and respect and serves as their advocate as long as is necessary.  In my opinion, Wilma is the original patient advocate.   For those that are lucky enough to work with her, she shares her knowledge and expertise on a daily basis so that they are a better practitioner.  She is always willing to help at the triage desk, start a difficult IV, provide an extra hand with a difficult patient, or hold the hand of a dying patient so they do not die alone.   As a nurse in the Cardiac Cath Lab at KU, I often received patients from Wilma.  Many times, those patients were in grave condition.  However, I knew that if I was getting a patient from Wilma, that the patient was well taken care of and their chances were better because Wilma was their nurse.  When she isn’t teaching others in the ER or serving on a committee to improve the care that is provided there, she is teaching Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) to other professionals.   
Just over one year ago, my Mom and my best friend, suffered a massive stroke.  As I walked through the doors of the University of Kansas Hospital Emergency Department to meet my Mom who had been flown there, the first person I asked for was Wilma. Not only did I know that Wilma was exceptionally skilled and that she would give my Mom the best chance at survival but I also I knew that Wilma would  take exceptional care of  my family.  As I waited for my Mom to arrive and contemplated the unknown, Wilma was kind enough to get me the quiet room I needed and a much needed box of Kleenexes.  As soon as my Mom arrived to the ER, she was personally escorted by Wilma to the ICU where she would receive her care.  Following her shift, Wilma came to that same ICU to provide emotional support and to assure that we had everything that we needed.  Throughout that weekend, she continued to visit the waiting room with various supplies of snacks, jackets to keep us warm, and Kleenex.  While the Neuroscience team cared for my Mom, she cared for our family as though we were her patients or her own family.  I know that this level of care is not the exception with Wilma.  This level of care is the rule. 
                And, while Wilma provides excellent care inside the walls of the hospital, she provides it outside as well.  Throughout the past year, Wilma has helped one of her best friend’s lead a valiant fight against breast cancer.  She has taken her friend to weekly treatments, doctor’s appointments, and radiation therapy.  She has also provided many a meal and child care relief to help her friend ‘fight the good fight’.   She has once again given of herself to be an amazing nurse and friend. 
                Wilma Guilbeau  is a patient listener, a patient’s best advocate, a skilled practitioner, and a natural leader.  In my opinion, young nurses should aspire to be the nurse that Wilma Guilbeau is every day.  Wilma has given her life to care for others, therefore, it would only be fitting to honor Wilma with the Heart of Healthcare Award.  She exemplifies what it means to be an exceptional nurse each and every day. 

Nomination for Jennifer Medellin ( on the left above)

In my opinion, there is no greater honor in Kansas City than being nominated for the Heart of Healthcare Award.  After witnessing the level of caring and expertise that one of the nurses at the University of Kansas Hospital Neuroscience Intensive Care gave last year, her nomination for this award was not a question.
On July 10, 2009, I told my Mom that I loved her over the phone shortly before she went to bed.  That night, while she slept, she suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke.  The next morning, when she was unable to be aroused, she was examined at her local hospital in La Crosse, KS.  There, she was diagnosed with a massive stroke, one week before a proposed surgery to remove a recently diagnosed carcinoid tumor.  From the small hospital in Western Kansas, she was flown by fixed wing aircraft at my direction to the University of Kansas Hospital.  As a former  KU nurse, I knew that she would receive the best medical and nursing care available.  Over the course of her three day stay, I was overwhelmed by the level of care that she did receive.  And, while the care of her medical staff was exceptional, the nursing care that she received exceeded my highest expectations. 
Over the course of the weekend, we were able to determine that the stroke that my Mom had suffered was so massive that she would be unable to recover.  Therefore, we made the difficult decision that it was necessary to remove her from the machines that were sustaining her life.  On the evening of Sunday, July 12th, she was extubated, her last rites were administered, and comfort care measures were instituted. 
Shortly before 7am on July 13, her care was assumed by Jennifer Lewis.  As a nurse, I knew that she was going to have a difficult shift.  She was going to have a death on her shift.  And, while on a unit where that happens regularly, that is never something that is welcomed.  She began her shift by coming in to offer her emotional support, her nursing excellence, and fresh refills on our hospital coffee.  Even though she knew what her shift would bring, she was smiling.  Throughout the next few hours, she would offer many hugs, words of support, and a few tears as well.  However, one of the most poignant memories of her care was when she offered to make hand molds of my Mom’s hands.  My Mom had beautiful hands.  Her nails were always perfectly manicured and painted in the latest shade of OPI Red.  Jennifer shared with me that she had made similar molds of her grandmother’s hands a few weeks prior in her grandmother’s final hours.  She offered that she loved being able to put her hand in the mold of her grandmother’s.   I knew that I was going to miss holding my Mom’s hand as well so it was only fitting for us to make those molds of her hands as well.  At the time, I wasn’t sure how often I would take them out of their box.  Since then, however, I have been incredibly thankful to have them.  Before a routine surgery last fall, I was able to slip my hand inside my Mom’s for some much needed support.  If it wasn’t for Jennifer, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity. 
Jennifer related to me as a daughter and as a nurse.  She welcomed my questions about my Mom’s care in her final hours and let me participate as I wished.  She held my hand, hugged me, and gave me the much needed support I needed when I was struggling to be strong for my Dad.  She helped me to organize a cocktail party in the room shortly before her passing that celebrated and honored her life.  She was readily available when we needed her and respectfully distant when we needed that as well. 
Jennifer Lewis loves being a nurse and it is exhibited in the manner in which she takes care of her patients and families.  During the final hours of my Mom’s life, Jennifer provided the same exceptional care to our family that she also provided to her patient.  With her help, I was able to give my Mom the ‘good death’ that she deserved.
Since my Mom’s untimely passing, I have made multiple trips to the unit to visit, what feels like, an extended family.  Each time, when she has been working, I have been welcomed by Jennifer with open arms.  And, while I would like to think that my case is exceptional, I know it is not.  I know that each day that Jennifer Lewis works, patients and families are receiving exceptional care. 
I am honored that she was the nurse to provide care to my Mom in her final hours.  And, I can think of no better way to honor her love of nursing than by honoring her with the Heart of Healthcare Award.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Today, I once again learned the valuable lesson of community.  This afternoon, I was at home so that we could get the back window of the truck fixed.  And,as my OCD self went out to check on the installer, I noticed the 2 KS State Troopers at the neighbor's home.  And, being the person I am, I asked them if I could be of any assistance since I knew that those neighbor's are travelling.  " Yes Maam, Ed has been killed in a car accident and we are trying to get ahold of his wife.  We do not think she was in the car with him."  Excuse me??  The kind trooper just informed me that my dear neighbor across the street had been killed in accident while on vacation today.  And, over the next hour, we would learn that his wife was killed in that same accident.

In the blink of an eye, my neighbors are gone.  Both of them.  However, what I noticed was the amazing sense of community as we all gathered in our cul de sac.  Every person in a one block area was connected at once by the quickly spreading word of Ed and Joann's death.  And, while I have lived here the shortest amount of time, I , seemed to know almost the most about Ed.  And, how did I know so much?  Because, Ed and I were buddies.  While I couldn't tell you his favorite restaurant, or his favorite sports team, I could tell you all about this trip they were on and how excited he was that his wife had just retired and that they would now be travelling together.  He was one of many faces I said good morning to on my way home from a run.  And, Ed was the man I always chatted with on my way to get the mail.  In fact, our latest chats were about his son that was about to move here and how I would help him find a home in KC.

My neighbors leave behind two children.  Two sons in their 20s and 30s without their parents.  And, it breaks my heart even though have never met them.    It is devastating to lose one parent, but to lose both in the same day, I cannot even begin to imagine.

And, while I am saddened by the loss of two great people.  I am reassured about the choice we made.  The families that I spent my afternoon with genuinely care about the people around them.  They are concerned with the welfare of each and every one of us.  And, collectively, we are saddened at the loss of our friends.  It was amazing to me to see how much everyone wanted to make sure that everyone knew and was aware of what happened.  And, each family was obviously affected.

It makes me sad to look across at their home and know that they are never coming 'home'.  And, while I know they are now in their true 'home', it is sad to know I will not see them again for a long time.

So, to my followers, I ask that you pray for this family.  Theirs sons will certainly need it in the days and months to come.  We lost two great citizens today.  However, I am comforted by the fact that they were together and they were enjoying their life together.