Inspiring Stories

Staff Provided Unforgettable Compassion, Care During a Mother's Final Days

Published: Feb. 8, 2019

As a nurse in the Methodist Hospital Emergency Department, she often sees patients and their families during stressful and emotional moments.

But she experienced The Meaning of Care in a whole new way after her mother was diagnosed with a rare colon cancer. She was so moved that she had to recognize the team responsible.

Methodist Hospital Emergency Department nurse Shelley Hultman, RN, BSN, and her mother, Patty Burke.

Patty Burke and daughter Shelley Hultman, RN, BSN

“Just One of Those People”

Everyone loved Patty Burke.

“She was just one of those people,” Shelley said of her mom. “She would walk into a room and people were just drawn to her. She was funny. She always had a smile on her face. She always made very inappropriate jokes – embarrassed us all the time.”

Patty had worked at Methodist Hospital for 15 years, first as a manager for cardiothoracic surgeons and then for vascular surgeons. She moved on to work at First Eye Associates at the nearby 8111 Building before retiring.

“She liked to stay close to the hospital because she shopped in the gift shop every day,” Hultman said.

A Life-Changing Diagnosis

In the fall of 2016, Patty discovered she had a rare colon cancer. That started what become a “whirlwind of a year,” Shelley said.

Appointments and surgeries followed, and there was a brief stay on the Methodist Hospital oncology floor – an experience Shelley remembered fondly because of the “wonderful” staff. 

But after a visit to the emergency room nearly a year later, doctors had bad news: The cancer had spread.

Patty was admitted to Methodist Hospital and returned to the oncology floor. As the family learned how little time Patty had left, the team’s commitment and support became evident.

Hultman described her mother’s care in a letter, nominating the staff for the DAISY Award: 

“The nurses showed my mother such compassion and helped her and my family through the hardest time of our life. It was a long 12 days in the hospital with my mom vomiting, in pain and confused. When she was admitted, we thought it would be a quick admission for pancreatitis, but it ended with a discharge for home hospice. There was a roller coaster of emotions for all of us. Without the knowledge and support of these nurses, this situation would have been much worse.”

Focusing on What Matters

A nurse herself, Hultman was used to answering medical questions for her family. The staff was quick to take that burden off her shoulders.

“I also appreciate that the nurses encouraged me to be the daughter and not the nurse,” Hultman wrote in her nomination. “It was so hard to leave the care of my mother in someone else's hands, but after getting to know her nurses, I was comfortable going home.”

Even Patty told her to.

“She would tell me to go home because she knew she was in good hands,” Hultman said. “She tried to kick me out numerous times. She felt very comfortable.”

"I truly want to thank you. I have worked and dealt with many units throughout the health system and I feel that the staff on 6 South are role models for all of us."

Shelley Hultman, RN, BSN 

A Bittersweet Honor

For its efforts, the Methodist Hospital 6 South Oncology Team was awarded the 2018 Team DAISY Award, which celebrates the extraordinary skill and compassionate care given by nurses every day.

The award now hangs with other honors on the floor.

“We take a lot of pride in the care that we provide our patients, so it’s an honor to be recognized,” said Cheryl Bohacek, MSN-RN, OCN, the service leader for the floor. “People here put their heart and soul into their work.”

As the end neared, Patty decided to go home. The “amazing” mother, friend and coworker died after four days in hospice care.

But she’s not forgotten, and her time at Methodist Hospital is part of a bittersweet final chapter.   

“We couldn’t have asked for better care,” Shelley said.

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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.

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