It doesn’t just take a village — it takes a system
When she entered the room, her husband was happy to finally see her after so long. They had both been through a lot the last few years.
As she got closer, and his hand was placed in hers, he closed his eyes. For the first time in months, he felt complete.
In less than 24 hours, she would pass away. Nine days later, he would join her.
Fred and Ingrid only had each other. They were married 57 years and their closest relatives lived in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Ingrid’s health had rapidly declined and Fred had been treated multiple times at OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital for his own medical issues.
“Fred was a private man,” says Chaplain Jean Feeney, manager of pastoral care at Dublin Methodist. “When I met him, he sternly explained he didn’t need my services.” Jean continued to visit him and explained that not only was she there for spiritual support, but emotional support, as well. Eventually, he shared his concern about being ill and not being able to care for his wife like he wanted.
Not long after Fred shared his story with Chaplain Jean, the palliative team caring for Ingrid called Fred’s ICU nurses, Lyndsay Welsch, RN, and Paul McMillin, RN, and explained that she was actively dying. But, earlier that morning — upon hearing Fred’s name — Ingrid opened her eyes for the first time in days.
“We knew that Fred and Ingrid only had one another and started thinking about ways to get them together,” says Paul. “We wanted to give Fred a chance to say goodbye.”
And so, a cross-campus “village” of nurses, physicians, chaplains and other associates started talking about ways in which they could reunite Fred and Ingrid in the same room.
Jill Riedmiller, LISW-S, social worker, Dublin Methodist, one of the associates who rounded with Paul and Lindsey, jumped in and offered to help. She also reached out to Riverside Methodist’s palliative team to the discuss options … and risks.
After consulting with his physicians, “Team Fred and Ingrid” worked to transport Fred to Riverside Methodist. And while he was still considered less of a risk than transporting Ingrid, he was intubated and considered a full code.
The team also made sure Fred and Ingrid’s out-of-state niece and her husband were informed and comfortable with the decision. “The family was so grateful of everyone’s kindness and amazed with how often the staff called with updates,” says Chaplain Jean. “Some of the staff even stayed later than their shifts so they wouldn’t be calling too early due to a three-hour time difference.”
“ I am so grateful to work with associates who display such compassion, love and care and for an organization that places a value on our patients’ lives.”
“We were determined to bring Fred and Ingrid together as a way of valuing their relationship with one another and so they could bring comfort to one another,” says Jill.
Fred was transferred via MedFlight ground transport — a cost Fred did not have to incur due to leveraging the use of a Dublin Methodist charity fund.
Meanwhile, at Riverside Methodist, Keri Turnwald, BSN, RN, administrative nurse manager, 7 Yellow oncology and palliative care, started working with her team on how they would move Ingrid to Fred’s room once he arrived. They worked to locate a room in the ICU on 4 Blue, where Fred could be treated and Ingrid could be transported to see him.
When it was time, “I leaned into Ingrid and said, ‘Let’s go see Fred,’” says Keri. For the second time that day, Ingrid opened her eyes.
“We set them up so they were facing one another,” says Keri. “You could tell how much he loved her by the way he looked at her.” Once they arrived, Colleen Batchelor, LPN, response team, placed Ingrid’s hand in Fred’s.
“When we saw them holding hands, it was confirmation that we did the right thing,” says Keri. “It’s our job to provide patient care, but it’s also our job to treat patients with dignity and respect.”
Because of the intubation, Fred was unable to speak, but Jean let Keri and the team know he could communicate by writing, though the transfer left him tired and unable to do so. He tried to mouth around his tube, but it was difficult to make out what he was saying. They called in Ashley Cowgill, MA, CCC-SLP, speech-language pathologist, rehabilitation services, and she understood what he was trying to say. She had previously worked with Ingrid and was able to connect with Fred and let him know that Ingrid was well cared for.
While holding Fred’s hand, Ashley joked with Fred about Ingrid’s feisty and spirited personality.
“I’ll never forget that moment,” says Ashley. “It reinforced my purpose, and I am so grateful to work with associates who display such compassion, love and care and for an organization that places a value on our patients’ lives and on what we can do for them, especially in their final moments.”
It all boils down to compassion. Fred and Ingrid were treated with the same level of care and compassion as we would want for our own family members.
“It’s what you should do, and that’s exactly what we all did,” says Keri.