Nurse Walks Patient Toward Optimism and Recovery
Mike Baxter’s 22-day hospital stay started out with a trip to Methodist Hospital’s emergency department for diverticulitis – inflammation of the intestines.
“Initially, I thought he was faking it,” said Mike’s wife, Dawn Baxter. She laughed as she continued: “It was like, ‘OK, if we’re going to the hospital, you really better be sick.’”
He was. And all joking was quickly set aside.
Mike suffered an abscess and perforated bowel. He underwent surgery but experienced a complication shortly after. Another portion of his bowel had perforated.
Dawn wanted to be optimistic for her husband, “but I could see him quickly deteriorating. I had this constant worry of, ‘Is he even going to get better?’”
And then Drew Rogers, RN, a nurse on the medical surgical floor, walked in.
Straight talk and a firm stance
Rogers could see that Mike was frustrated.
“That’s probably the nicest way I can describe it,” Rogers said. “I knew the biggest thing I could do, right then and there, was learn a little bit more about him. I needed to be able to relate to him.”
And he did relate to Mike. Just by “talking to him straight.”
“I told him exactly what was happening and what needed to happen in order for him to go home,” Rogers said.
“He wasn’t the easiest patient,” Dawn added. She laughed as she tried to illustrate how firm Rogers was with Mike: “He would come in and say, ‘OK, it’s time to walk. We need to get those walks in.’ Mike would say, ‘No, I don’t feel good. I’m in a lot of pain.’ Drew would say, ‘I’ll be back in 30 minutes. We’ll walk then.’ Mike would say, ‘How about two hours?’ And Drew would just look at him and say, ‘Nope. 45 minutes. I’ll see you then.’”
The fact that Rogers returned when he said he would meant everything to Dawn.
“He made Mike a priority,” she said. “He didn’t just go back to the chart and say, ‘Patient refused to walk.’”
“I can always do that, yeah,” Rogers said. “But I knew that not walking and having him sit there would have been the worst thing for him.”
A nurse, a teacher and an encouraging voice
Rogers taught Dawn how to pack Mike’s wound and flush his abscess drain. He also taught her what to look for if something went wrong. That kind of care and persistence showed Dawn who Rogers really is.
“Just such a good, patient guy,” she said.
But his true light shined when she and Mike were at their lowest.
“I remember getting into a pretty good argument with Mike like a week before he got out,” Dawn said. “I told him, ‘I’ve been the nice wife. I’ve been the supportive wife. I’ve been caring and trying to do everything to keep your spirits up, but this time, it’s about me. I’m not going to be a widow. So change your attitude! Let’s go!’”
Mike needed encouragement, and Dawn will never forget how much Rogers gave.
“Mike would walk maybe half a lap around the floor, and I’d say, ‘I wish you would have done a full lap,’ Dawn said. “Drew would chime in and say, ‘That’s great! Good job, man! Small victories. No going back now. You’ll go further next time.’”
“When you’re positive,” Rogers said, “it gives you the drive to do better.”
The fear of going home
When surgeon Dr. James Reilly gave Mike the green light to go home, Dawn could tell how scared her husband was. The look on Mike’s face was one of apprehension. But Rogers sat on Mike’s bed and put his arm around him.
“He said, ‘You’re going to be OK! Dawn is trained up, and Dr. Reilly is a good doctor. He’s kept you here for 22 days. He’s not going to send you home if he thinks something could go wrong. That’s just not what he does. You can do this. You’re going to do this.’”
Depth of impact
Not long after Mike’s discharge, Dawn nominated Rogers for the DAISY award, which is given to nurses across the country who go above and beyond, displaying extraordinary care and service.
Rogers received the award.
“Drew was amazing,” Dawn said. “God sent the right person at the right time. He was exactly what Mike needed to get his butt going. Really. Physically and emotionally.”
Rogers, humbled by the award, explained why the couple’s appreciation was so gratifying.
“I guess it’s always in the back of your mind that you have some sort of impact on certain patients,” he said. “But to be made aware of the depth of that impact – I mean, I would have never known that. It makes me feel like I did my job.”