On June 19, 2017, 76-year-old Robert Wangemann heard the words that no one wants to hear. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer and in the immediate days that followed, he struggled to drink small amounts of water without being in excruciating pain.
Seeing her father in pain, and knowing the fear she felt within herself, Robert’s only child, Helena – who works in the medical field – convinced him that he needed to be seen and have a second opinion. When the pain was more then he could bear, she took him to the Emergency Department at HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital.
“From that day forward, my family was never alone,” recalls Helena. “The emergency staff was able to get my dad an appointment with an oncologist. Once his care was at HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital, we had a team of compassionate people on our side as we began our cancer journey.”
Robert often remarked that he couldn’t believe the kind of treatment he was receiving – from the housekeeper to the nursing staff to his oncologist.
On July 30, 2017, the cancer caused Robert’s stomach to rupture. He was not expected to live very long. However, Robert pulled through surgery and recovered in the newly renovated Acuity ICU/IMCU at HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital.
“My experience was that intensive care units are noisy, cluttered, too brightly-lit and chaotic. A difficult place to heal,” said Helena. “But, this ICU was the opposite. I was pleasantly surprised at the muted colors, peace, quiet and sense of order.”
In 2015, the Acuity Charitable Foundation made a generous $1 million dollar lead gift, and along with the donations of others, the newly renovated HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital Acuity ICU became a place of soft colors, natural sunlight and a place for healing.
“My dad said to me, ‘Helena, I know it sound strange, but I feel God’s presence here,’” said Helena. “The financial gifts made this space a place of healing and peace for my dad.”
Robert’s last days were spent with family. His last wish was to be a part of his great-granddaughter’s first birthday party. Knowing how much that meant to him, nursing staff moved Robert to a large hospice room so the party could come to him.
“His face lit up when the nurses made his dream come true,” said Helena. “My dad got to actively plan his great-granddaughter’s first birthday party. The nursing staff provided him with a space to host all of the party visitors that he enjoyed imparting words of wisdom to.”
Helena’s father passed away on Aug. 26, 2017, but not before experiencing what he told Helena were the “happiest days of his life.”
“Medical care is one thing. But to take care of someone’s emotional and spiritual needs – that’s what makes this hospital special,” said Helena.