Healthcare Heroes Find a Window
Imagine being stuck in a windowless room for 32 days unable to breathe comfortably. Now imagine you’re unable to see your family at all.
That’s the situation one AnMed Health COVID-19 patient found himself. As of April 28, Richard Frady had been in the AnMed Health ICU for 32 days, and during that time there was more than one instance that he was unsure if he was going to survive.
“He absolutely adores his family,” said Kimmie Chew, the AnMed Health ICU nurse who recalled how often the patient would speak fondly of spending time with his family, including his wife of 47 years.
“We would call his wife for him so he could FaceTime with her on a hospital iPad, but the virtual visits were never very long, and afterward you could tell he missed his family so much.”
It was touch and go for several weeks, but then the patient turned the corner and started getting better. That’s when it all clicked in Chew’s head. “What if we helped the patient see his family? I realized that if we put him in a room with a window and [the patient] could stand at that window, his family could wave to him from the parking lot below,” said Chew.
But for the patient to stand at the window, he would need special equipment, according to Chew. “Anyone who’s been mechanically ventilated for several days in the ICU is at risk of ICU-acquired weakness,” said Chew.
That’s when the Sara Combilizer, which is a combined tilt table and stretcher chair, came into play. A Sara Combilizer allows ICU patients who have been mechanically vented for several days to sit and stand up even when they are not strong enough to do so on their own.
It’s also when Chew told fellow ICU nurse Lora Nix about her idea to help this family be able to see each other for the first time in over a month (even though it was only through a hospital window).
Once Chew shared her idea with Nix, the two worked together to plan how to make the family reunion happen.
“We decorated the room with balloons and put decorations on the hospital windows,” said Chew. “As things developed we came up with more and more ideas about how to make it special.”
Eventually, they created signs for the patient to display in the window that the family could see from the parking lot below. They also decorated his hospital windows. His family created signs to hold up so the patient could see them from his hospital room.
Even though the patient was very weak (he was only able to spend about two minutes standing at the window of his room), he was very grateful that he was able to see his family.
“The first thing he said after the visit was over was that he couldn’t believe [Nix and I] were able to do such a lovely thing for him and his family,” said Chew.
“The entire episode lifted his spirits and gave him hope. He couldn’t even sleep beforehand because he was so excited to see his family,” she said.
Chew, who has been a nurse at AnMed Health for the past four years, began her Clemson nurse practitioner program on May 14. She was surprised by all the media coverage AnMed Health received.
“What we did wasn’t about good PR for the hospital,” said Chew. “It was about helping a patient who couldn’t talk without getting winded. It was about helping a patient stand up for the first time in over a month.”
According to Jay Wright, Director of Nursing for Cardiovascular and Critical Care Services, both Chew and Nix are exceptional nurses. “They really went above and beyond the typical standard of care,” said Wright.
“They did something very special, which was to connect a patient with his family in a very meaningful way,” he said.
Chief Nursing Officer Shaunda Trotter echoed Wright’s sentiments. “Both Chew and Nix really rose to the occasion. I can’t imagine the positive impact they made on this patient and his family. I’m sure the memories will last a lifetime,” said Trotter.
“Both Chew and Nix displayed great care in their nursing and made me feel so blessed to work with such an amazing group of nurses! I am so blessed to work with nurses like Chew and Nix!” said Trotter.
“We’re in this together” is not just a slogan. At AnMed Health, it’s a guiding principle for how we care for our patients, our community and each other,” Trotter said.
On May 8, Frady was transported to AnMed Health Rehab Hospital, and on May 30 he went home. In a text on June 15, his daughter said he was doing great. She has praised and thanked the AnMed Health staff for nursing her dad back to good health.
AnMed Health is a dynamic, comprehensive health system in Anderson, S.C. For more than 100 years, AnMed Health has provided health care for residents of eight counties in upstate South Carolina and northeast Georgia. AnMed Health’s medical staff includes more than 400 physicians, and with over 3,600 employees, AnMed Health is Anderson County’s largest employer.