A nurse’s extraordinary act of kindness brings couple together to say their goodbyes
When nurse Jen Johnson learned that a wife and her husband were both dying of COVID-19 at Memorial Hospital Central but hospitalized on different units, she was determined to bring them together so they could say their goodbyes.
“We had the wife on our unit for quite a while,” Johnson recalled. “The one thing she would consistently do is call out for her husband.”
When Johnson saw the patient’s son in the hallway and noticed he looked very upset, she stopped him, and he told her of his parents’ situation. “He was exhausted from going back and forth to see both of them. And since they were on the same COVID precautions, I made a call to see if I could get them paired,” she said.
That same day, the couple was reunited – their beds pushed together.
“The wife got to lean over and kiss him, and they held hands. To have that moment together – that was nice.” The husband died within 15 minutes of his wife’s goodbye.
Johnson, an associate nurse manager who has worked at Memorial Central for 20 years, said it was a monumental moment in her nursing career. But it’s certainly not the only time she has gone above and beyond for others, said Leslie Tronnes, clinical nurse manager and Johnson’s supervisor. In fact, Johnson has brought loved ones together in other instances, too.
“Jen goes above and beyond to make special moments for patients. As a nurse, Jen just has the biggest heart. There’s so much more to nursing than just doing individual tasks. She really has the passion behind her job and is always thinking of others,” Tronnes said, citing other examples:
When a case manager retired recently, Johnson took it upon herself to make a slide show and a video compilation as a tribute to the case manager’s work. She organized a “cheer tunnel” where staff lined the hallway on the employee’s last day. And during the employee’s very last rounds, nurses and others on the unit brought in a balloon and told the employee something they had learned from her. “I wanted to make her feel special,” Johnson said. “I wanted her to go out knowing she had an impact on my life.”
And when a very frequent and often noncompliant patient – one well-known to staff – was in the hospital on his birthday, Johnson got him a balloon, a small gift and gathered a group to sing “Happy Birthday.”
“In only a way Jen could, she still continues to advocate for him and really tries to give him good advice,” Tronnes said. “She continues to go above and beyond to even the most challenging of patients.”
“Her personality and the way she carries herself lights up a room. She starts every day with a song and cheer in the huddle to really set the tone for the day. She has an infectious ability to engage others.”