Inspiring Stories

‘Selflessness to Which I Have Never Experienced’: Labor and Delivery Nurse Honored for Supporting Grief-Stricken Couple Through Stillbirth

Published: Oct. 19, 2022

Most of Krysta Winkelmann’s second pregnancy was much like her first.

“It was all totally normal,” said Krysta, a proud girl mom to 2-year-old Nora. “No complications or anything.”

The main difference? Krysta was expecting a boy this time around. And he could hardly wait to arrive, it seemed.

“He was very active,” Krysta explained. “I mean, day and night I would feel him kicking. But then, one day, I just kind of stopped feeling him.”

Shock and Anger Meet Comfort

At 38 weeks pregnant, Krysta wasn’t even considering bad news. After all, she was scheduled to be induced the following week – it was almost time to meet her boy.

But on July 17, 2022, a trip to the Methodist Women’s Hospital Emergency Department to confirm everything was OK confirmed just the opposite. Krysta and her husband, Brandon, had lost the baby.

“Just complete shock,” Krysta said. “Like, total shock. I don’t even know that I could describe it as sadness. I couldn’t process anything. I thought I was in dream. And then, you know, that kind of turns into anger. Our whole lives were turned upside down in that one moment.”

But in a moment’s notice, the couple was greeted with comfort from Denise Morrison, BSN, RN – a Women's Hospital labor and delivery nurse.

“I remember that first encounter,” Krysta said. “It felt like she was there to be my friend – not just my nurse. She sat with me, put her hand on me and said, ‘I’m going to be here for you through all of this.’”

“Everything Was Perfect”

Before Krysta’s induction, she found herself in a dark place.

“My daughter and husband had come down with COVID just a couple weeks prior,” she said. “I tested negative, but it made me wonder: ‘Did I actually have COVID?’ I thought maybe that was the reason for all of this. Or was it the coffee? Did I drink too much caffeine? I ate a hot dog – could that be why? Of course, you go back to everything you ate and every candle you burned. Just bizarre thoughts of, ‘This was me. I did something wrong.’”

But Morrison was quick to remind her otherwise.

“She planted those seeds of, ‘There’s nothing you did. He only knew life within you, and you were exactly the mom he needed,’” Krysta said.

With courage and grace beginning to grow within her, Krysta prepared herself to give birth to a son she wouldn’t be taking home. And despite the circumstances, “everything was perfect,” she said.

Baby Nolan was born July 18.

“He was a big boy!” Krysta said with a reminiscent laugh. “He had the chunkiest little thighs. He had a full head of hair. And he had his sister’s nose – that’s what I remember the most.”

And he was loved on for hours by Mom, Dad and Morrison, who wasn’t scheduled to work that day but scrubbed in to help deliver, hold and bathe the lifeless newborn.

Krysta recalled: “She told me, ‘I was going to spend the whole day thinking about you anyway.’ And that just blew me away.”

Equally heartwarming was the compassion that Morrison extended to Brandon, Krysta added: “I think he struggled with wanting to be there for me, but at the same time, he’s also lost a son. And I think in these situations, dads can often be put on the backburner. But Denise was always checking on him, seeing if he needed anything, offering him advice on how to process this and help me at the same time.”

Honoring Selflessness and Tender Care

Morrison, who’s been with Methodist for 24 years, was recently honored with The DAISY Award – a national recognition given to extraordinary nurses.

“This is selflessness to which I have never experienced,” Krysta wrote in her nomination letter.

And many other families would agree. Morrison is often called upon in cases of loss.

My passion for doing this comes from a personal experience of my own, during which I was not offered the things we can provide our families now,” Morrison said. “These families are having the worst day of their lives, but I’m humbled to be able to help make as many positive memories as possible for them.”

Krysta’s positive experience has only led to more.

“I really do feel his presence every single day,” she said of Nolan. “And it’s brought me so much closer to my faith, family and friends. From the hospital to now, it’s been huge knowing that my husband and I have never been alone in this.”

She credits Morrison and the rest of her care team for the strength her family needed in moving forward after saying goodbye.

“Denise was obviously the main character in this story,” Krysta added. “But truly, all the nurses were great. Every single one of them treated me with such tender care, and I can’t express how appreciative I am.”

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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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