It would have been easier to do nothing, but Debbie Parish’s compassion drove her to move mountains to make a patient’s last days with a loved one possible.
Friday, Bill was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and was told he only had a few days to live.
Saturday, Bill found out his husband Tony was very sick and also admitted, but they would not be able to see each other. Bill wept.
“I could not imagine knowing I was about to die and not being able to spend the time I had left with the person I loved the most,” said Parish, nurse in the ICU at Alameda Health System (AHS)-Highland Hospital.
With that in mind, Parish took her concerns to Karen Young, the charge nurse at the ICU.
“I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years, when I saw Bill I instantly knew he didn’t have long which is why we needed to move quickly,” said Young.
They put their heads together to figure out how they could get this couple together before Bill passed away.
Since Bill was suffering from multiple organ failure he needed to be connected to several machines and his medical team didn’t want him to leave the room. A few floors up, Tony was in isolation due to an airborne illness and leaving his room would put patients and staff at risk of infection.
“One of the reasons I love working at Highland is we are a family working together to take care of your family. Everybody rose to the occasion to find a solution,” said Parish. “It was just the right thing to do. My job is to take care of patients. We were not able to save Bill, but I believe we were able to bring him some peace. To me this was part of his care plan.”
Parish and Young engaged infection control and both patients’ physicians to find a solution.
“It was the weekend. A lot of people were off work but they were returning calls and answering emails,” said Young. “Having a couple hospitalized together is not very common which called for a unique plan.”
Sunday night Bill was given clearance to go to Tony’s room. Parish made sure she and Bill had on the same protective gear that nurses in the isolation unit wear. Young and Parish loaded him on a gurney, and rolled him and his IV unit to the isolation unit.
“Bill was really sick, but when he found out he was going to see Tony he definitely perked up. It was the sweetest thing,” said Parish.
Parish stayed with Bill and Tony in the isolation unit for three hours on Sunday before having to take him back to his room for a dialysis treatment. She sat with them for another four hours on Monday.
Monday night, after Parish’s shift was over, she learned that Bill passed away.
“I truly believe that Bill lasted as long as he did because he had a chance to sit with Tony,” said Young. “I was nervous we weren’t going to get the approval in time and I am so happy it worked out.”
Young nominated Parish for recognition at the monthly AHS Board of Trustee Meeting for exemplary service and care.
“It is always wonderful to be recognized, but at the same time it felt strange. I was just doing my job.” said Parish. “I just happened to be working that day. I believe any one of us would have done the same thing. AHS is truly a patient- centered organization, it’s one of the things I love about my job.”