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In honor of National American Nurses Week this week, UK Chandler Hospital patient Annie Hickey and her family shared their story of appreciation and gratitude.
When 19-year-old University of Kentucky student Annie Hickey woke up in the intensive care unit at UK Chandler Hospital, she was confused. Confused that her parents were at her bedside and confused that nurses were talking to her as if they knew her and telling her how great she looked. She was being told stories about the last six days of her life, six days she didn’t remember which shocked her.
What she does remember is not feeling well the week before and thinking she was having a bad reaction to medication she was given after a horseback riding accident last November. She also remembers going to University Health Service on the Monday after Easter for a series of tests, and when the results revealed serious problems with her kidney function and oxygen level, she was immediately transported to UK Chandler Hospital’s Emergency Department.
A CT scan revealed an enlarged kidney that would require a stent to be surgically placed. “I’m a pretty high-spirited girl and I thought, well, everything will be alright, no big deal,” Hickey said.
However, what Hickey didn’t know at the time is her life would soon be in jeopardy and she would need the very best possible care in order to pull through.
“A parent’s worst nightmare is witnessing their child desperately ill,” said her father Patrick T. Hickey Jr. “Nothing would have prepared us for the sight of our daughter intubated but following our visit to the ICU (2Medical Intensive Care Unit), we knew we had no worries about the quality of her care or the dedication of her caregivers.”
Annie’s father and mother, Monique, traveled from Atlanta to be by their daughter’s bedside as she laid unconscious and fighting double pneumonia and septicemia, a life-threatening infection that can get worse very quickly. However, one week later, Annie’s condition changed for the better and she was released from the hospital to go home, healthy and happy. The Hickeys have praised the medical care Annie received at UK and especially a group of very diligent, caring people who were with their daughter round the clock — the nurses. Patrick Hickey said the entire staff provided excellent care but recalls a few nurses in particular.
“Ron Simpson epitomized the premise of the Hippocratic Oath by providing attentive care for Annie,” he said. “He explained to us in common sense language her complex, and at times, confusing sequence of treatment, to offer practical advice and comfort to us, to give us an idea of what to expect and what to really worry about, and periodically provide an anchor when we drifted emotionally. Never have we received such holistic care.”
Although his care was directed at their daughter, a lot of Simpson’s care was coming “our way,” Patrick Hickey said. “His calm, cool and collected guidance and instruction to the patient, the patient’s family and the other staff members was effective and a salve.”
“He made certain that the night shift knew exactly what needed to be done in his absence, which assured us that Annie would receive a continuation of his excellent care during the night,” Patrick Hickey said. “I suspect that his successors needed no such instructions, but rather his concern was that worried parents might get some rest.”
Judy Niblett, patient care manager of 2MICU, said the staff is a very cohesive group of strong team players. The experienced ICU nurses are committed to helping newer staff develop their clinical expertise and mentor them through this process.
Lauren Schoeck was with Annie when she finally regained consciousness. “She took steps to ensure our daughter’s dignity and explained the implications of her illness to help manage Annie’s expectations of her recovery,” Patrick Hickey said. “She was Annie’s nurse and friend, and connected with Annie in a personal way.”
Annie only knows what happened during those six days of unconsciousness by what her mother has told her. “My mom said a nurse came in and brushed and French-braided my hair as gently as if I were her own. In addition to the nursing staff, providing her excellent care were the nursing care technicians (NCT), an important, integral part of the 2MICU team.
“When I regained consciousness, I felt calm because everyone around me was calm. The nurses would come in just to talk and ask me things like what I did at home. They made me think about normal things,” she said. “I’m so thankful. I really didn’t realize how close I was to not making it. I feel that without these doctors and nurses, I might have had a very different outcome.”
The American Nursing Association (ANA) states nursing is often described as an art and a science, a profession that embraces dedicated people with varied interests, strengths and passions because of the many opportunities the profession offers. No matter in what capacity nurses serve, whether it be as educators or practitioners, nurses serve with passion for the profession and with a strong commitment to patients.
The interdisciplinary team at UK HealthCare is top-notch in caring for critically ill or injured patients,” said Colleen Swartz, chief nurse executive for UK HealthCare. “The nurses and nursing care team are often dealing with physiologic instability of the patients, and the emotional turmoil endured by family, friends, and other loved ones. We often encounter patients and their families at one of, if not the most vulnerable moments of their lives.
“The nurse often becomes the coordinator, communicator, care provider, coach and counselor. Really a day in and day out resource that can help define the entire patient experience for the patient and their family.”
The care Hickey received from Chandler’s 2MICU nursing staff demonstrates the ANA’s philosophy better than words alone, but Hickey’s story of great patient care is just one of many stories of grateful patients who receive the same care from all areas of UK HealthCare.
“Nursing is as much a noble calling as a profession, and is ultimately built on the foundation of an intensely personal relationship between the nurse and the patient,” Patrick Hickey said. “That can sometimes stand as an impediment to team cohesion. That was not in evidence with this staff, as they elevated that relationship to a sublime level. Time and again, all members of the team unselfishly pitched in as needed, assisting their associates, and working towards the common goal of healing. That was extraordinary.”