VRpatients Celebrates Nursing Appreciation Week With Stories from Our Very Own

Nursing Appreciation Week may be just one week on the calendar. But those of us who have worked in a hospital, loved a healthcare professional, loved a patient, or been a patient, we know the appreciation doesn’t end there. 

Nurses touch lives in profound ways every day.  Most of the stories will never be published or shared beyond the hospital room, but they certainly deserve to be. So we wanted to take this week to ask our very own nurses – Anne Montera and Paul Mazurek – to share the one patient story that truly shaped their lives forever. The moment they knew they had chosen the right profession. The moment they made a difference. 

Here are their stories.

Always Go With Your Gut: Anne’s Story

Anne Montera knew she had chosen the right career the first year after graduating from nursing school at Bethel College. She was working in Obstetrics at a hospital in Wichita, and was discharging a 33-week pregnant woman who had been in the hospital for several weeks for pre-term labor. She was doing one last check of the baby’s heart rate before discharge. Upon looking at the strip that correlates contractions to the baby’s heart rate, she saw something just didn’t quite look right.  She decided to notify the resident.

When Anne showed the strip to the resident, the doctor dismissed her concerns and just ordered her to continue with discharge. Anne wasn’t satisfied. So she decided to call the attending physician.  

“I still remember his name,” she said. “The doctor asked me what my gut was saying.  I told him, ‘she needs to be in the OR.’ He said, ‘ok. I’ll meet you there.’ 

While I was in the OR prepping the patient, the doctor asked the resident to kindly leave to allow Anne to assist with the emergency C-section, which stunned her. Within minutes, Anne’s decision to challenge the resident physician’s authority was validated. The baby’s umbilical cord was so frail, it had literally disintegrated.  Had the patient been sent home, the baby would not have survived.  

“In nursing school we are taught to be a patient advocate, and this was the moment I knew why I was called to be a nurse,” said Anne.

 

The Last Dance: Paul’s Story

Paul Mazurek always considered himself a “paramedic with a nursing license.” He is orderly, disciplined and resourceful. As a flight nurse, he has seen the worst traumas imaginable, and is given more authority than most to take almost any action he needs to save a life until the patient can get to the hospital.  But, one patient changed him forever.  

Before becoming a flight nurse, Paul worked in the cardiothoracic pediatric ICU at University of Michigan Health in Ann Arbor. Most of his patients were babies, which were preferred among the nursing staff. One day, an older teenaged boy arrived.  He had been battling a lifelong heart condition and was presenting with protein-losing enteropathy, a condition in which there is an increased loss of proteins through the gastrointestinal tract, which leads to low serum proteins and chronic diarrhea. 

“I still remember his name – Jared,” said Paul.  “His condition didn’t allow him to do a lot of the things that normal kids could do.”  The nursing staff asked Paul if he would take Jared’s case so they could care for the patients they were most comfortable with – babies.  Paul agreed.

Over the course of many weeks, Jared was in and out of the ICU, so Paul and Jared had time to get to know each other pretty well.  Jared was an avid Ohio State fan, so being treated at the University of Michigan Health’s hospital gave Paul plenty of opportunities to razz him– including replacing his scarlet and gray room décor overnight with maize and blue spirit wear from the hospital’s gift shop!

“I bonded with this kid. He was different, and I was really able to put myself in his shoes,” Paul said. This included buying him a Christmas tree for his room the year he had to spend Christmas in the hospital.

Prom season rolled around several months later.  Sadly, Jared was admitted to the hospital a few days before the big day and put on a ventilator.  Jared’s parents had asked Paul if he could help him “still go to the prom” by dressing him in his tux and bringing his girlfriend to his hospital room. Paul pulled some strings. He worked with his parents to get every component of his tuxedo on so he would be ready. This meant carefully maneuvering the shirt, pants, cumber bun, suspenders and bow tie around the ventilator. 

Then, it was time. 

Jared’s parents brought his girlfriend up to his room. She was dressed to the nines in her prom dress, boutonnière for Jared clutched tightly in both hands. Upon seeing Jared, she dove into his bed and hugged him. They cried together.  

Less than a week later, Jared passed.

“I stayed with his parents as he died,” recalled Paul. “And that was the first time I actually learned what it meant to be a nurse.”

 

VRpatients is grateful to have Anne and Paul among our staff of amazing, dedicated healthcare clinicians, developers, and advocates. While Nurses Appreciation Week is every day for us, this week is a special week to thank a nurse who has impacted your life. Thanks to all the world’s caregivers for all they do to help those who need it most.