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Moved by Staff’s Care During Husband’s Final Days, She Nominated Them for The DAISY AwardPublished: June 8, 2021
When Laura Bair thinks about her late husband of 42 years, Charles, she remembers how much he cared for those around him.
As a service manager at an auto repair business, “Chuck” enjoyed guiding younger mechanics as they learned the ropes of the job.
He loved his two dogs – “He didn’t hardly get sat down and they were up on his lap,” Laura said.
And his two grandchildren? “They meant everything to him,” she said.
Even when Chuck became ill with COVID-19 and fought for his life last fall, he was thinking of others.
“When he was first admitted into the hospital for COVID, I ended up with it, too, and he would call on his cellphone,” Laura said. “And he was more worried about me than he was himself. That’s who he was, just a caring person.”
Methodist Hospital critical care nurse Brittany Morrison, BSN, RN, CCRN, and Chuck’s other nurses also experienced his selfless nature.
“He was so funny. Always wanting to make us laugh, even though he was in a rough position himself,” Morrison said. “He was the easiest patient. He was one of those people who never wanted to be any bother.”
Caring for critical care patients can be bittersweet for staff, and that was no different in Chuck’s case.
“It was hard to see that because you’ve had a patient for so long, but not the outcome that you want,” Morrison said. “But it was great to be able to support his family as well during that time.”
Experiencing The Meaning of Care Herself
Methodist staff members are known for providing The Meaning of Care, and Laura was no exception. As a nutrition services technician, she was part of the army of behind-the-scenes employees who help make a stay at Methodist Hospital as pleasant as possible. In particular, she took pride in caring for the caregivers by preparing meals for them.
“They enjoyed it when I fixed meatloaf, fettucine Alfredo, desserts,” she said. “I always tried to fix different things like that so it would make their night a little easier.”
After Chuck was admitted, the Bairs found themselves on the receiving end of The Meaning of Care. What followed spurred Laura to nominate his care team for The DAISY Team Award, which honors extraordinary skill and compassion in nursing.
Chuck started out on the Progressive Care Unit, where his only contact with his quarantined wife and daughter, Barb, was through phone calls. But the nursing staff was full of good listeners, Laura said.
“He would reminisce with the nurses about our trips with the grandkids,” she said. “We went to Florida a couple times, and on our 40th anniversary, we went to Hawaii. He kept telling the nurses about that.”
While Laura recovered and returned to work, Chuck’s condition worsened, and he was transferred to the Critical Care Unit. Laura was working when staff called to tell her he needed a ventilator.
“I got the call at about 3 a.m.,” she wrote in her DAISY Award nomination. “They urged me to come to the ICU so I could see him and talk with him as they were preparing to put him on a vent. We had such a nice conversation, and I felt so cared for by the staff for letting me see him.”
That feeling continued in the days to come, with the staff offering hugs and words of encouragement to Laura when they’d see her at work. They were trying to stay positive, Laura said, but she could sense their stress and frustration.
“They overdid their job. They did so good,” she said. “I wish that other people would see how much the nurses, doctors and nurse aides all do on a daily basis and how stressful this is for them. People who haven’t had COVID and haven’t been sick, they just don’t see what these people do, and it’s a very hard job.”
“We Made a Difference”
Although Chuck lost his battle with COVID-19 on Nov. 27, the care he received made a lasting impact on Laura.
At first she sent homemade baked goods to the staff members as a thank-you. But, as she later wrote in the DAISY nomination, “that's simply not enough.”
The message she ended up writing to recognize them was full of emotional details: the 3 a.m. phone call, balancing the difficulty of separation with knowing Chuck was getting the best care, and updates from the staff that brought as many smiles as tears.
“He would reminisce about our life together with the nurses,” Laura wrote. “They told me so many things he shared. They would tell me all the time, ‘He really loves you.’”
The critical care staff got two surprises last month when The DAISY Team Award was presented: the award itself and a visit from Laura, who has left her job to focus on her own health.
Morrison said receiving the team award was an exciting honor for the staff, but the bigger story is the impact they made on a patient and his family.
“It’s so special when anybody recognizes what we’re doing,” she said. “We’re doing our jobs, and we all love what we do, but it’s a great honor, and it’s great to hear from patients’ families. Especially with this particular situation where the patient had passed – it helps us to know that we made a difference.”