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Holiday Lessons at the Hospital

Terri Polick | NursingLink

November 19, 2010

Giving Back

Holiday Lessons

Thinking of the less fortunate is another tradition that helps nurses get through the holiday season. Get together and adopt needy families in the community, or better yet, needy patients on your unit.

One year, my coworkers and I adopted a migrant farm worker named Carolos, who landed on our neurosurgical unit after he had a major stroke while picking apples at a local orchard. Carolos’ entire family took turns staying with him at the hospital 24 hours a day over the next few months. His family slept in chairs and on the floor next to his bed. We spent a lot of time with Carolos because of his complex nursing needs, so it didn’t take long before the entire nursing staff knew Carolos’ wife, Maria, his four sons, his two daughters-in-law, and his two-year-old granddaughter, Angel.

Before we knew it, Christmas was just around the corner, and everyone’s thoughts turned to Carolos and his family. Harvest season was over and we started suspecting that Carolos’ family had run out of money. Everyone noticed that Carolos’ family had stopped eating regular meals. The only thing we saw them eating was stale popcorn from the cafeteria. We also noticed that they were losing weight, so one of my coworkers contacted a local Catholic church and asked for assistance on behalf of the family.

The next day a priest started delivering daily meals made by Mexican parishioners, and the hospital kicked in free cafeteria vouchers. Then we decided it was time to make plans for Santa’s arrival at the hospital. Carolos’ neurosurgeon spoke fluent Spanish, so he asked little Angel what she wanted for Christmas. She gave him a long wish list, which was great because we wanted to give her and the entire family a Christmas that they would never forget.

Our boss got into the holiday spirit and let us hide all of the gifts in her office. By the time it was over, the whole hospital had pitched in to help the family out. As if that wasn’t enough, our unit social worker performed the biggest holiday miracle of all. She found an air ambulance service that would fly Carolos back to Texas after he was medically stable, with one catch: We needed to find someone who would pay for the jet fuel. Then, right out of a cheery holiday flick, one of Santa’s little helpers stepped up to save the day. Our hospital administrator wrote a personal check that covered the cost of the fuel so that Carolos and his family could get back home.

The Lesson: Just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the holiday spirit! Giving back is a surefire way to always bring you some holiday cheer.

Next: The Reason for the Season >>

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