Inspiring Stories

‘She Did It All’: Nurse’s Care Makes Lasting Impact on Patient Recovering After Bike Crash

Published: Dec. 14, 2021

Don Johnson was out for his daily bike ride on Oct. 18 when the unexpected happened.

He remembers enjoying a beautiful fall day on the Keystone Trail in Omaha. He remembers the wind at his back. He remembers seeing skateboarders on the trail and steering to avoid them.

He doesn’t remember the crash.

“Either I hit somebody, or somebody hit me. I blacked out and was unconscious for several minutes,” said Don, who estimated he was traveling at 25 mph. “If I didn’t have a helmet, I’d be dead for sure.”

When the 74-year-old regained consciousness, he was in an ambulance headed to nearby Methodist Hospital. The Emergency Department staff determined he had a concussion, a dislocated AC joint in his shoulder and damage to his pelvic bone.

“I was really healthy and suddenly became very vulnerable,” Don said.

He was taken to the Ortho/Neuro Unit to begin his recovery. The next day, he met a nurse who would make a lasting impact on him.


Building a Relationship

Maggie Howe, BSN, RN, knew from an early age that she wanted to work in health care. She began college focused on becoming a physician assistant, but her goal changed after a hospital stay of her own.

“Nursing just called to me when I saw good nurses who were making a difference in my life,” she said. “Having that one-on-one patient care just seemed like it would be so rewarding.”

She’s found that satisfaction since joining the ortho/neuro staff in 2019.

In Don’s case, she found a patient frustrated with a sudden lack of independence. But as she cared for him over the next three days, she also noticed his positive attitude and drive to return home.

“I felt like we built that rapport,” she said. “I tried to be supportive and encouraging to him. He was just a really easy patient to be around. He was a joy to take care of.”

In Howe, Don found a caregiver striking the perfect balance between meeting his medical and emotional needs. She continually asked how she could make him more comfortable. When he had trouble eating, she brought him Jell-O and ice cream. She encouraged him to walk around and build strength so he could be discharged. But she’d also pop in to say hello and chat.

“If you imagine what a nurse should be like, both technically competent but also giving that feeling of empathy and concern, she really fits that definition,” Don said. “She was funny, really helpful and competent. She did it all in a very pleasant way. She stood out.”


“What Really Matters”

Don was so impressed with Howe that he nominated her for The DAISY Award, which recognizes nurses for outstanding care.

In his nomination he wrote: “I felt I was not just another body to take care of on her shift, but she listened to my complaints as a grumpy patient because of no sleep and my injuries. Maggie’s skills were above and beyond. She is a credit to your organization. Hang on to her.”

Howe was surprised with the award while at work earlier this month, and Don’s nomination was read aloud. Howe said she laughed when he described himself as grumpy.

“I didn’t find him to be grumpy at all,” she said. “He was just a really nice man who was put in a difficult situation.”

But she choked up when asked about what her care meant to him.

“I’m honestly kind of speechless,” she said after a long pause. “It was amazing getting to know him so well. I’m glad that as a nurse I can form those patient relationships that make a lasting memory.”

Then, after more reflection, she added:

“It’s just such a privilege to be honored like this. It’s the hardest time to be a nurse right now. And I feel like all of us are struggling a little bit with how the world of health care is right now. It’s a good reminder of what really matters in our jobs – building that relationship. It makes me remember what’s important and why I got into nursing.”

More Resources

About the Author

Patrick Smith, a content strategist for Methodist Health System, has over a decade of experience writing and editing for newspapers and other publications. He enjoys meeting new people and telling stories that highlight Methodist's mission to deliver The Meaning of Care.

See more articles from Patrick Smith
Photo of Patrick Smith