'Nobody That Deserves it More': Methodist Surgical Oncology Nurse Recognized With The DAISY Award
Published: Sept. 15, 2020
When Alexis Ramey was 19, she received a scary but hopeful diagnosis – focal nodular hyperplasia. She had a benign liver tumor that, at its peak, was bigger than a baseball and required careful monitoring at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center (MECC).
Ramey was referred to surgical oncologist George Dittrick, MD, and over years of appointments, scans and surgeries, the friendly face and laughing smile that became her constants belonged to surgical oncology nurse navigator Heather Hagewood, MSN, RN, OCN.
Consistent compassion through the years
For Hagewood’s years of consistent care and compassion, Alexis nominated her for The DAISY Award, a national nursing award that recognizes extraordinary care.
“There’s nobody that deserves it more than Heather,” Alexis said.
In her nomination, Alexis wrote: “I can’t pinpoint a certain story or one time Heather went above and beyond because every time I see her, she just does that. She’s always recognized and listened to my aches and pains and has provided not only help but also a shoulder. It was a scary process six years ago, and she’s always been there to assure me everything will be just fine.”
Alexis’ most recent appointment with Dr. Dittrick was in May, and she could tell Hagewood was walking down the hall by the clack of her signature high-heeled boots.
“She was like, ‘Alexis …’ and I started smiling because I knew that she was going to be smiling when she came around the door,” Alexis said.
Alexis, who has joked to her mother that they should invite Hagewood to Thanksgiving, says it’s the little things the nurse does that ease her nerves and mean so much – a quick joke about shoes adding weight on the scale or even noticing changes in her appearance.
“I had just recently dyed my hair, and she was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you went dark with your hair!” Alexis said. “I hadn’t seen her in a year. She obviously knows me by face and name, but she also notices details.”
“Every single time I have an interaction with her, it’s always positive,” she added. “She’s always super uplifting. I’ve never seen her slightly in a bad mood. She just always seems so dedicated.”
“The light at the end of the tunnel”
Hagewood, who has been a nurse for 21 years, was in tears as her coworkers and family were on hand to surprise her with The DAISY Award last month at MECC. She called Alexis a special person who is easy to connect with.
Caring for so many patients with cancer can be difficult. “There’s stuff that you take home with you,” Hagewood said. So she looks forward to Alexis’ visits. “It’s just a breath of fresh air that we get to celebrate that things continue to be good.”
Hagewood isn’t a nurse for awards or attention, but she said through tears: “It’s just nice to know that it’s recognized, though. I truly love my job. I love the people I work with.”
What does she love most about being a nurse?
“The patients and the good outcomes. But you know what? I like to even be there when things aren’t always good. To catch them when they fall and be that support system. And look them in the eye and let them know that we’re going to make it OK. It’s going to be OK. We’ll get through it together.”
With Alexis’ tumor shrinking, she doesn’t need to visit Dr. Dittrick for another two years – great news that comes with a tinge of sadness for not getting to see Hagewood soon. Until then, what Alexis will keep with her and what she most wants others to know about Hagewood are her dedication and heart.
“Cancer is a hard thing for anybody to go through, let alone working in that field,” Alexis said. “You have to be a very caring person and have a big heart to do that job. If you want somebody who’s going to be very interested in your life and your diagnosis, she’s that person. She’ll be almost like the light at the end of the tunnel.”