The Anniversary Dinner - The Nebraska Medical Center

Uploaded by NebraskaMedCenter on 17.03.2011

We met online on one of the dating sites. She had me come over for supper and ever since
then, it was perfect from that day on. She told me right away that she had cancer. It’s
part of life and I didn’t want that to ruin what she had. I’ve seen the true beauty
from inside out, instead of the cancer. April 15 was our first date and from there it grew
closer and closer. Even that night when I met her, she was just glowing from head-to-toe.
Her eyes were just sparkling. Once I started to get to know her, she was the most amazing
person ever.
She had tumors on her brain, she had cancer on her back and it was on her spinal fluid
too. We found out that she only had six months to live. My mom helped me get an engagement
ring and I proposed that Friday when I came back. All I said, “Will you marry me?”
She was the happiest ever. A lot of people showed up that night. She looked amazing;
it was a good plain day. After that, it just went downhill after we got married.
Denise was a patient on our floor on the O Shoe and during our nurse leadership round,
I had got to meet them and visited them every day and had a pretty good relationship with
them and found out that they were newlyweds. They were married December 3rd. My lead brings
her husband Matt into my office and I said, (you could tell he’d been crying) “What’s
going on?” And he told me that Denise had been put in the hospital. She had pneumonia,
she was a patient down on 5 West and that they had quit all treatment and she was going
home on hospice. And that today was their one month anniversary and he had been trying
to find a quiet place where he could tell her how much he loved her and that it was
okay for her to die, that he was going to be okay after she was gone. And so I called
Jaime Rosales, in Nutrition, told him what was going on.
We knew that the patient didn’t have long to live and they wanted to have some type
of special dinner that the couple could remember. We wanted to make that meal special because
obviously the conditions were that it could be one of their last meals together. So we
wanted just to make that a great experience for them and kind of pass it along to Jason
and Alice, which were experts in the culinary part of our food service department.
Jaime contacted me and said, “Hey, what do we have in-house for, do we have any nice
cuts of steak or anything we can make a special meal for?”
She likes steak; her mother said she like mashed potatoes with brown gravy, anything
chocolate for dessert, and her drinks were iced tea and chocolate milk.
We got the chancellor’s private dining room set up and I had someone as an attendant to
serve the meal and we had cooks for cooking filets and I actually had one of my cooks
come in and open up a bottle of champagne.
We let the kitchen handle the menu preparation part of it, but within catering we set the
room and set the stage for them to make it the best meal that they could have. We had
place-cards for them so they knew we were inviting them in and this was specifically
for them, a special event. Fresh flowers. It always pulls at your heart strings that
this could be the last time they’re together. If you had personal experiences yourself,
you know how important it is to make these last moments imbedded in their memory forever.
I was Denise’s nurse that day. In my mind; “I was going to be going to the dinner,”
as how excited I was. What the family asked me to do was try to conserve Denise’s energy
as much as possible. I almost got to play security guard; I’m putting signs on the
door like, “See nurse before entering,” “Do not enter.”
They’re wonderful. I met Denise three days before her anniversary, but she got married
December 3rd, and actually that was my anniversary (December 3rd). I treated her like a friend,
like a family member. She just was (in what she was dealing with), she was wonderful.
Faced with everything going on, she just maintained a smile and maintained a wonderful spirit.
They walked in and they were just like, “Oh my god.” They were just so excited.
It was amazing. It actually came out better than I thought it would be. It meant the world
to me to actually be able to have our anniversary, just me and her, going an hour and a half
to two hours just by herself. She was so happy. I know she was just waiting to actually experience
it; that was one thing she wanted to experience before she passed away, to have our anniversary
dinner together.
Denise left that day at 2 to go home on hospice and then a friend of hers came up that morning;
her husband wanted me to know that Denise had died Thursday morning.
It took five or six different people to pull it off, but it’s one of those situations
where you don’t really think about it. It’s what we do.
We were involved in someone’s last meal of their life and to have that a memory and
be a part of it and a part of the family’s memory – it was special for everybody.
You don’t do your job at 100 percent; you do 150 percent.
It’s one example of how things carry out every day here. There’s so many resources
and there’s so many people that work together and so many departments that you can just
call and lean on. So it’s a great company to work for.
This is what we do and this is the part of nursing that makes things great.
I think it would qualify perfectly in extraordinary care. We had perfect care from day one to
the end.