Inspiring Stories

Meaningful Connection Through Compassionate Care

At 83 years old, Richard Fellman still has a lot of spunk and energy.

He also has a deep appreciation for culture and connection. In fact, he and his wife, who passed away in 2015, once lived in Ukraine. Richard received a fellowship to teach American government at a university in Uzhhorod (a city in western Ukraine) in 2009. 

If his name sounds familiar, it should. Richard served as a Nebraska state senator and Douglas county commissioner. He even ran for Congress – twice. As a former college professor, retired lawyer, father of four and grandfather of eight, his life has revolved around serving and caring for others.

Recently, though, he was the one in need of care.

“I fainted,” Richard said. “I fell down in my kitchen. Gosh, I don’t know how long I had been lying there. But when I woke up, my daughter took me to the Emergency Department.”

There, at Methodist Hospital Richard was swarmed with medical professionals who began running tests. He recalled asking many of them, “Well? What are you finding?”

After a CT scan of his head, an echocardiogram, an electrocardiogram and several blood tests – his medical team found no concerns with his head or heart. It appeared he may have just been dehydrated. Still, he was admitted for observation.

A comforting voice

Richard was transferred to his hospital room, and that’s where he met Luba Fedoronko, BSN, RN.

“I said, ‘Hi, my name is Luba, and I’m going to be taking care of you,’” she explained.

“It didn’t take longer than 30 seconds,” Richard said. “I recognized her accent right away. I knew she was from Ukraine.”

When he asked her to confirm that, a big smile flashed across Luba’s face.

“Yes!” Luba exclaimed. “How did you know? Are you from Ukraine?”

Richard told Luba about his time there with his wife. He explained that his grandparents were from Ukraine. They discussed cities and places, and laughed over the fact that his wife was less than thrilled with the idea of ever moving there.

“When I told my wife that I was headed to Ukraine to teach, she said, ‘I’m not living there. I’ll come visit you.’”

Luba got a good chuckle out of that.

“Laughter is good medicine for everyone,” she said. “I really believe that. And that’s how connections are made.”

Luba’s approach to care is to treat every patient as if they were family. Richard made it easy for her.

“He brought me back to my country,” she said. “He’s about the same age as my father – he reminded me of what it’s like to be home.”

A team of care and compassion

Luba was one of many individuals who showed Richard incredible care and compassion during his stay.

In a letter to Methodist Hospital acknowledging his great experience, Richard mentioned six others who also went above and beyond their required duties.

Mariah Byrd, BSN, RN, made Richard’s bed more comfortable – “making what seemed like a long night quite bearable.”

Pete Ray, BSN, RN, was very professional but “extremely attentive to everything I requested.”

Kim Moss, RDCS, the sonographer who performed Richard’s echocardiogram, was “delightful and a master of that machine.”

And three others “made me feel at ease,” Richard wrote, commending Maggie Sutton, OTD, OTR/L; September Koster, PT, DPT, CLT; and hospital chaplain Shari Duminy.

He added, “I think it’s very important when a nurse or whoever can develop a relationship with a patient. It makes a big difference on the receiving end.”

Richard admitted that he felt helpless during his stay – like he had no control over what was happening to him. Still, he was at peace.

“I tell you what,” he said. “When Luba told me, ‘I’m going to be taking care of you,’ I really believed her.”

About the Author

Jessica Gill, the External Communications Manager for Methodist Health System, is a former television news anchor and journalist. She has a passion for story-telling and illustrating Methodist’s Meaning of Care.

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