A straw and a pair of cheap glasses

Helping one man preserve some independence
Sept. 27, 2016

The young man who lay in the bed in the Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Hospital Central could not move his arms or legs, and he desperately wanted to regain his independence.

Fortunately, he had ICU nurses Joe Anderson (pictured above) and Jaime Goletski on his side. He asked if they could scratch his leg and turn him over, and at one point, he asked, “Can you give me a drink of water?’’

Anderson got to work on a quick fix. He gathered four drinking straws, tape, Band-Aids, and wooden tongue depressors, and began engineering a long vessel that reached to a glass of water on the patient’s table, and stretched to his chin.

Joe Anderson, a nurse for 20 years, is recognized for building a straw to help a man who cannot move get a sip of water.

Anderson placed one straw in another, sealed the joints with tape and Band-Aids and used the tongue depressors to build a few tripod-like supports under the straw so that it would be sturdy enough to reach from the cup to the patient’s mouth.

“If you balanced it right, you could put it right where he needed it, and he could reach up and get a drink of water,’’ Anderson said.

Helping the young man regain at least enough independence to sip water, Anderson said, is something he had to do.

“When you’re helping someone like that, it’s personal – it goes beyond being a nurse,’’ Anderson said.

The straw ended up being about four straws long, and it lasted for the week or more that the young man spent in the ICU.

“It worked for the whole time he was here,’’ Goletski said.

Before the end of her shift one day, Goletski noticed the patient had a pile of papers on his side table. She asked about the papers, and the patient explained that he was waiting on his friend to bring him some reading glasses. The papers were applications for disability, and he wanted to read them before he asked his friend to fill them out. Without the papers, he had no chance of getting assistance from human services agencies.

“What kind of reading glasses?’’ Goletski asked.

The patient explained that all he needed was a pair from a dollar store. At the end of her shift, Goletski stopped in to see the man. “What’s your favorite candy bar?’’

After working for 12 hours, Goletski drove to the dollar store, picked up a pair of reading glasses, bought some Mars bars and returned to the man’s bedside with the glasses and the candy.

When the patient tried on the glasses, he said: “My god, I can even see the TV clearer.’’

UCHealth Memorial Hospital applauded the efforts of Anderson and Goletski though the Recognizing U program, which celebrates employees who go above and beyond to provide exceptional patient care. Each received a certificate and a $50 gift card for their kindness.

A young man got back a little independence.

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.