Be the SPARK – Nurse Fulfills a Patient’s Unspoken Dream

I was recently invited by the executive team of Kennedy Health System (one of the nation’s leading healthcare systems based in New Jersey) to spend time with 270 of their leaders in Berlin, New Jersey. I was not prepared for what I heard, and I asked Joe Devine, President & CEO, for permission to share a heartwarming story about a nurse who acted as a SPARK for a patient who could do nothing to return the favor. He gladly said yes. Warning: get a box of tissues!

Story by: Maggie Mae, RN CMSRN, Cherry Hill ICU

“This past week I was assigned a patient in the CCU. Her condition was grave, and hospice was suggested.

30 years ago, she came from Poland and worked as a pharmacist in a chemical plant. The patient had been keeping a secret from her friends; her son was incarcerated in Pennsylvania. This patient had not seen or heard her son’s voice for 18 months.

The next several hours consisted of me, the patient’s friend, other hospital staff, a judge, and prison attendants working together to arrange a call between my patient and her son. Phone calls were made and transferred, technology was frantically acquired and set up, and prayers were said.

Eventually, the prison called me to discuss what I was trying to do. The superintendent agreed to try and arrange the video conference, but it would take time to go through the channels, and that was something I didn’t have much of.

We waited for the permission call from the prison and finally got the okay for a phone call at 12:00 noon. I hooked up a phone and started the call to the patient. When she heard her son’s name, she started talking in Polish nonstop for 5 minutes.

The call ended at 12:30pm with the patient hugging the iPad and trying to kiss her son. I started comfort care at 3:00pm the same day. This moment would have NEVER happened if a lot of people didn’t take hours out of their workday to assist me in making this woman’s last wish happen. The patient just passed peacefully.”

I wonder: what can each of us do to be the SPARK for someone else? It’s encoded in our DNA to help someone who can do nothing for us. Will you be a SPARK for someone today?