The charge nurse came to find me because a patient's wife and family wanted to speak to the nurse manager on the unit. I was on my way to a meeting at the time. The charge nurse informed me the family was willing to wait as long as necessary. After we were able to speak, they had planned to withdraw care on their loved one.
Their loved one was a patient who had received a cadaver kidney transplant many years ago. His transplant had failed and he had been on life support for a few weeks. The family knew keeping him on life support would not have been his wish, so they had planned to withdraw care as soon as family members could make it from out of town to say their goodbyes.
I met with the family in a waiting room when the wife expressed her gratitude for the exceptional care her husband received at Lutheran Hospital. She explained how all the nursing staff had been so extremely kind and supportive of her during this difficult journey. Her eyes began to well up and she could barely tell me the rest of what she wanted to say, but she was determined to let me know that one nurse stood out above all the rest – Kendra McKaig.
Kendra had been the nurse for the patient for three days leading up to the day they were withdrawing his care. The wife had taken immediate notice the day Kendra took care of her husband that she was wearing a mustard seed necklace – she cried once she saw it. She said she couldn't go into much detail about the conversations they had about the necklace because it would make her cry. She just wanted to express how meaningful those conversations were to her during this time and how it aided in her husband's end-of-life choices. She couldn't thank her enough for that.
The wife added that Kendra would come in on her day off the day they would turn off the machines and let her husband go to heaven, just to give her a mustard seed necklace of her own. She showed me the necklace and said she would hold it in one hand and her husband's hand in the other as the machines were shut off. She said she had no way of really expressing how thankful she was for Kendra and her extreme acts of kindness.
I let Kendra know about the conversation. Kendra explained that the wife had seen the necklace and immediately was brought to tears. She said her husband had bought her a necklace just like it when they were first married and she wore it every day. A year ago, the necklace broke and was lost. Her husband promised he would buy her a new one as soon as they could, but was never able to do so. Upon seeing the necklace, she felt so heartbroken he was never able to fulfill that promise. She knew this would break his heart as he always kept promises.
Kendra came in just to give the wife her necklace, knowing she needed it much more than she did. She told the wife to please take it and know her husband's promise would be fulfilled.
The wife felt she had a calling to go into health care after her husband's death. She serves as a reminder that because of Kendra's kind heart, she knew she needed to work in health care to give back what was given to her.
Kendra truly planted a seed in a family's life that they will never forget.
Jami Rumple is a nurse manager in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Lutheran Hospital.