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Jeanne’s story

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In the summer of 2022, 92-year-old Jeanne of Sheboygan woke up with shortness of breath and stomach pain that seemed to come out of nowhere. The experience was so concerning and unrelated to anything she could think of which would impact her physical health, that Jeanne traveled to the Emergency Department at HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan. 

“My mom got an X-ray in the ER and doctors discovered a collapsed lung,” said Jeanne’s son, Matt. “Her team of caregivers said her condition wasn’t life threatening, but they wanted to perform more tests to see what was going on internally.” 

Jeanne was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital where doctors reinflated her lung by inserting a chest tube, as nurses continued to monitor her health.  

Matt, who also volunteers as a Eucharistic Minister at the hospital, recalls his mother telling her team of doctors that she didn’t want any further procedures or rounds of testing to determine what may be contributing to her symptoms. Jeanne was adamant about that because as she put it, ‘she was dying.’ 

“Mom didn’t want to know what was wrong,” said Matt. “There was no trauma from a fall, or anything else which was obviously killing her. She made the decision to not undergo a bunch of testing and her doctors respected that decision 100 percent.” 

“By the time my brother and sisters arrived from out of state, my mom had already been at St. Nick’s for three days,” said Matt. “One of my sisters, who works in health care, was the first to notice that mom’s team of nurses was something special.” 

Wanting to spend as much time as possible with their mother, Matt’s sisters asked ICU staff if they could spend the night at the hospital alongside her. The room only had one bed with a couple of chairs, and staff were quick to bring in two cots for the women. The simple gesture meant a lot to them.  

“My sisters had the chance to share an extended, overnight stay with my mom when she needed the comfort of family,” said Matt. “It was exactly what my mom and sisters needed.” 

The care provided to Jeanne and her children went well beyond that of a special overnight stay, in the days that would follow. Matt’s sister, who worked as a nurse for nearly a decade, recalls how the team of nurses were consistently available on a moment’s notice when their mother needed them. She also took note of how compassionate the nurses were; in particular, how her nurse Rachel would endearingly refer to Jeanne as ‘darling’ and ‘sweetheart’, and how when their mother was uncomfortable, they were right there to hold her hand and offer support and kindness. 

“The nurses were so genuinely sweet to my mom,” said Matt. “Their kindness extended to my family as well. These men and women were taking care of all of us, and I will never forget it.” 

In addition, Jeanne’s final wish was to be able to see her dog, Breeze before she passed away - and another one of her nurses, Allie exhausted all efforts to fulfill this last wish. Although Jeanne was minimally responsive during this time, her eyes lit up upon seeing Breeze. In the moment, Matt jokingly said, "Mom wouldn't wake up for us, but she is all excited over Breeze! We know who her favorite kid is!" 

This moment left the family with a sweet, last memory of their mother and Breeze was able to snuggle with Jeanne one last time.  

Matt also remembers a particularly difficult day in the ICU when Jeanne’s breathing became very shallow. He decided to recite a prayer, which was extremely difficult for him to get through. 

“I was saying the prayer over my mother, and I was struggling emotionally,” said Matt. “That’s when Rachel put her hand on my shoulder to comfort me. While one nurse was caring for my mom, another was caring for me.” 

The act of the nurse placing a hand on his shoulder during such a heart wrenching moment still stirs emotions in Matt. While he doesn’t believe it was his mother’s nurse, Rachel’s job to show such a compassionate gesture like this, he thinks it’s a trait likely sewn into the fabric of those who work in the ICU at HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital. 

“Just knowing Rachel was there for me meant so much at the moment,” said Matt. “Her heart said, ‘I have to help this man.’ The act was so natural for her, and I believe it says something about the makeup and the heart of the people working on that floor.” 

Jeanne eventually fell into unconsciousness, and in the final days of her nearly weeklong stay - her family, nurses and doctors did everything they could to support her and make her as comfortable as possible. On June 19, 2022, Jeanne passed away in the ICU at HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital, surrounded by family who will never forget the compassionate care both they and their mother received. 

“The support and care given to my mom and family is something I will always remember and be grateful for,” said Matt. “Our nurses and doctors went above and beyond just doing their job. They were truly remarkable.” 

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