Everyday people walk our halls to visit someone or to receive care. We are tasked to provide medical services, with the goal that individuals leave here better than when they arrived. In the rush of our duties and responsibilities, so often we do not get the chance to truly hear or be a part of a patient’s story, aside from what is asked of us. Similar to anyone else working in their profession, we get tired, worn out and even bored. We lose sight of why we chose this path and what our mission is.
Then by luck or chance, a situation or person comes along and reminds us of why we are here and the importance of what we do. They capture our staff. They steal our hearts and forever hold a place in our memories, to become a part of our story.
It’s no secret that nurses are the backbone of hospitals. While yet to be scientifically proven, it is believed they are born with an extra compassion gene in their DNA. They are called to a mission to serve others, a true servant’s heart, and it never goes away. For decades, men and women have entered into the field knowing they will be overworked and underpaid for the majority of their careers, yet they are not deterred and know the reward lies in something greater than the accolades.
Jessica Polk has been with HRMC for almost two decades and for her it always goes back to the people she cares for. “There are days and nights that are super tough, especially when balancing a family, but then there are patients that remind me of what makes my job so rewarding,” states Polk. “They never know how much they fill our cups, while we care for them. Rose did that for us.”
In only a way that can be written in the story books, our halls and floors were graced with the story of Rose. A retired nurse who spent 50 years serving rural Kansas, with 35 of those years at the Stafford District Hospital. Who then spent a week caring, in her own way, for a large portion of our nursing staff. Her presence, story of service and a lifetime love has been felt by everyone who has encountered her.
However, to get to Rose, you have to start with Theron.
In a true love story fashion, something out of a Grey’s Anatomy episode, two love birds came to Hutchinson Regional Medical Center fighting their own health battles while remaining tied to the hope of their love for one another. The gentleman came to us at the end of his life. His battle began years back so after care and treatment was given, within our Orthopedic unit, the family decided hospice care was the next step.
There is something to be said about the healing touch of a loved one, and the need to have them close. While the staff had yet to encounter Rose, everyone could see the pull Theron had towards his wife. They say it’s what happens when people spend so much of their lives together. Interestingly enough, shortly before Theron was to be transported to Hospice House, his sweet Rose came by ambulance to our ER due to a continued issue with her own immune system.
However, we think she just needed to see her Theron, or it could also be that nurses pull, they just know when someone needs to be cared for.
See when you have been married 72 years, the other person becomes a part of you, which makes even a few days of separation hard. “We truly owe it to the nurses on Dad’s floor for organizing their visit in the ER. We didn’t even have to ask, they just made it happen,” stated son Kent Holcomb.
This is where culture, compassion and love took over for our staff. Both our Emergency Department and Theron’s charge nurse, Dawn Westphal, along with some family help, connected the dots between the two, and made time for them to see each other before transporting Theron to Hospice House.
“‘It’s good to see you,’ was Dad’s greeting to Mom daily, and sure enough that is exactly how Dad greeted Mom in her ER room,” recalled a teary-eyed Kent. “It was such a blessing that the staff gave my parents that moment together. They didn’t have to, and yet their kindness in this transition was everything for us.”
Even though the time may have only lasted minutes, it was exactly what both Theron and Rose needed as they headed in separate directions. While the family knew their father’s time was limited, the staff at Hospice House made his experience peaceful. Simultaneously, Dr. Robbie’s team in Inpatient Rehab made sure Rose was regaining her strength.
“Their love for one another was so evident. It’s what everyone hopes to find in their lifetime, and these two had it, even in the end. Rose enjoyed recounting stories about him, along with her time as a nurse. She was not just a great patient, but a true reminder of how to enjoy life to the end,” commented Lynsi Giles, Rose’s RN Case Manager. “I may have been doing my job, but these are the extra moments that make what I do so rewarding.” If you were in the Inpatient Rehab Unit, it was easy to see how Rose was giving back, just like any nurse would do, to those caring for her.
“On both sides, I continually was amazed at the dedication of care to both of my parents,” Kent stated in awe over the HRHS staff. “You hear or expect compassion, but these nurses live it. You can see it in their interactions and I couldn’t be more thankful for their heart and call to go above and beyond.”
We state that it is our mission to enhance the quality of life, and if you are one of the many who have never received care or visited our floors, you would not have the opportunity to understand how it’s not a motto we paint on a wall. It’s our drive, everyday, because we know those who are here seeking care depend on us to deliver. It’s why making the choice to help two, genuine souls enjoy their last few minutes together was not a question but a matter of making it happen, safely.
“The greatest gift this staff gave our family was the gift of goodbye,” remarked Kent. “Dad was still hanging on and Mom, once again, felt the pull to be with him. Again, the nurses and Dr. Robbie didn’t even question the request, they simply made it happen. With much assistance from Veronica Nail, who was providing her physical therapy, Mom “escaped” the hospital to see Dad. Veronica rearranged her schedule and provided Mom with the necessary training for us to make this trip successfully and without harm, she was a godsend.” Instead of traveling by ambulance, Veronica, who had previously helped Rose 4 years ago, showed and assisted Rose and Kent on how to get out of her wheelchair and into her son’s vehicle.
“The greeting and interactions shared between my parents will be something I remember forever. The nurse at Hospice, Amanda, graciously took photos while I helped my mom stand to give Dad kisses and love on him like she always did,” Kent shared in gratitude.
Love never lets go, but calls us to one another when goodbye is necessary. For Rose, she needed to say goodbye to her hero, husband and lifetime partner, Theron. For him, it was as if he was waiting for that last kiss, that last time to get a glimpse of who he vowed his loyalty to.
A mere three hours later, at the age of 95, Glenn Theron Holcomb passed away.
“To experience and be the smallest part of Theron and Rose’s closing chapter is the best reminder as to why I have chosen the career of a nurse. The people I meet and care for make all the hard days easier,” Jessica Polk, a RN who cared for Rose, commented. “I know I was supposed to be caring for her, but she has know idea how she filled my cup at the same time. Even on one of the darkest days of her life, she took the time to check in on my well-being.”
In one instance, recalls Kent, it was past visiting hours at the hospital but he had yet to tell his mom of her husband’s passing. He knew it was probably a long shot to be allowed back in, but he called up to the unit his mom was in and spoke with nurse Jessica. Without hesitation she gave him instruction on how to gain admittance so he could get up to see his mom. Another small act of going outside of the normal job requirements, but that’s what happens when it’s more than a job to the people here at HRMC.
From the Bible readings to the spontaneous parties, or late night admission when visiting hours were over, our team of nurses met the call to serve Rose and her family with the highest level of compassion and empathy.
“These are the interactions that inspire a person to be a nurse in the first place, and Rose was exactly the patient that our team of nurses needed. Once a nurse, always a nurse, and Rose lived that out during her stay with us,” remarked Polk.
Rose Holcomb was discharged after over a week in our care at HRMC, to spend the rest of her days relaxing in her home on the farm in Plevna, Kansas with her family. However, her presence will forever remain a part of our story and be a charge to the next patient that comes to receive care from our doctors and nurses.
“I’m not sure I will ever be able to repay my gratitude for the people who loved my parents while at Hutch Regional. They didn’t just work to heal their ailments, but truly loved on them. It was remarkable to experience,” said Kent. “These people, the nurses, are the heroes of the hospital. I always believed it about my mom and it is true for your staff as well.”
To learn more about Rose Holcomb’s experience as a nurse she has published a book, “Nurse, Please!” and we invite everyone to learn about the life of a nurse through her story. If you are interested in learning more about our nursing staff or positions, please visit our website at www.hutchregional.com//medical-center/careers/nursing/