Garth Leadbetter

May 18, 2022
Garth Leadbetter
Garth Leadbetter

A clear path to peace and common ground

As an older woman neared the end of her life, Garth Leadbetter looked out the window at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital on a gorgeous Colorado day and came up with an idea.

The end-of-life situation, already difficult, was compounded because members of a large extended family were not yet in agreement about how to let go of their loved one.

“There was an awful lot of emotion,” said Leadbetter. “It was an extraordinary time that called for extraordinary adaptations.”

So Leadbetter encouraged all of the family members — 15 or so, including a brand new baby — to walk outside to a healing garden. Then he gently rolled the patient in her hospital bed out to the patio. For more than an hour, as the sun shone on all of them, the entire family spent time with their loved one. The patient got to hold her great-grandchild and managed a slight smile as Leadbetter thoughtfully answered questions from family members.

“Families need to understand that even at the end of life, we are intently focused on quality care and attention to detail,” Leadbetter said. “They need to know, in their hearts, what comfort care really means for their loved one.”

Dr. Ethan Cumbler, an internal medicine doctor at University of Colorado Hospital, watched as Leadbetter took the patient to the garden, describing it as “remarkable.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Cumbler. “The entire family saw the care and attention that this exceptional nurse was giving, and it gave everyone the confidence to make a tough decision.”

Leadbetter credits his leadership team and fellow nurses for supporting his decision to head outside and help family members find unity.

“We are a great team,” he said.

Leadbetter hasn’t always been a nurse. He had a successful career in software engineering and decided to make a change.

“Something about nursing and spending time with patients spoke to me,” he said. In his late 40s, he decided to enroll in nursing school. He has relished his new mission ever since.

“The path was pretty clear.”

He recently received a Daisy Award for taking care of the woman and her large family.

On that bright, bluebird Colorado day, Leadbetter’s path to nursing led him to a tender moment with a large family in a healing garden. There, Leadbetter helped a patient and her family find peace and common ground.

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About the author

Molly Blake is a communications specialist for UCHealth. She joined the team in 2019. Molly spent much of her journalism career freelance writing for various publications including The New York Times, NBC news, alumni magazines and more. She is the proud spouse of a United States Marine Corps veteran, and wrote extensively about their life in the military.

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