Top left: Shiela Fulcher. Top right: Jamie Wells. Bottom left: Ashlee Rieser. Bottom right: Jan Gravit.
Nurses are involved in virtually every aspect of medicine. From admission to recovery, they see it all. Their experiences are joyous, sad, heart-warming and strange -- sometimes in a single day. Their work is life itself, from the newborn to the terminally ill and everything in between. Five Savannah-area nurses share some of their most memorable experiences. As one of them comments: "Every day is a new adventure."
Nurse Ashlee Rieser was working in the ICU unit at Memorial Health when a moment arrived to help a terminally ill patient fulfill a wish. “I was fortunate enough to be a part of a man's last wish before he died from terminally ill cancer,” explained Rieser. “He was a young man, mid 40's, who was diagnosed and given just weeks to live.” The patient was engaged to be married and wanted to marry his love before he died. The nurses in the ICU helped his wish come true and made the ceremony come to life. “It's moments like this that make the nursing career such a blessing,” she said. “To take part in someone's life fills my heart with emotion. It means the world to me to be the advocate for my patients so that they can have the best quality of life, no matter what it takes.”
Early in 2000, Jamie Wells was an ER nurse at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah. He remembers on particular night when the television reality series, “Trauma: Life in the ER” filmed at Memorial and captured on film a true medical miracle. “We had an adult male come into the ER with chest and back pain,” recalled Wells. “We did our initial assessment and I had come back in to check on him. I instantly saw he was very pale. When I inquired as to how he was feeling, he told me all of his pain was gone. That wasn’t good. I immediately called for the attending physician.” A cat scan was performed. Doctors caught a ruptured brain aneurysm and within minutes the patient was in surgery, and the bleeding was stopped. “The patient was in the right place at the right time,” said Wells. “It was a miracle we were able to save him.”
For Sheila Fulcher, one of her most touching memories is also one of the hardest to share. Fulcher was working as a labor and delivery nurse about 20 years ago. “I got a patient who arrived to the labor and delivery unit from her doctor’s office,” said Fulcher. Her physician arrived minutes later and did an ultrasound. He had confirmed what he thought in the office… their unborn daughter had not survived.” Fulcher remembers holding the stillborn infant. “She was perfect and so beautiful,” she recalled. “Dad broke down in tears when I bought his daughter to him to hold. Then I broke down. I spent a lot of time with them and their stillborn baby girl.” Fulcher cut off a lock of hair from the baby girl and put it, as well as pictures, in a baby book for them. “Months later I was at a church and ran into them. At that time I was pregnant and felt a little uncomfortable considering the way that we had initially met and knowing their circumstance,” said Fulcher. “We became friends and have shared many discussions about the loss of their baby. And through it all they have always been grateful for me. I didn't realize the difference that I made during their loss with the time, tears, and baby keepsakes that I shared with them.”
Serving as a nurse at the Rape Crisis Center is an enormous responsibility and for Jan Gravitz, it is also rewarding. “Being a sexual assault nurse examiner, all of our cases are memorable,” said Gravitz. “But, when I can give a victim of sexual assault a time that they feel safe and can make the thoughts of the assault disappear for just a few moments, that is what makes this job special.” Not only does Gravitz assists the victims, she also works alongside the detectives and the DA to provide the necessary documentation and evidence for a conviction. “When I know the evidence I collected helped the detectives make an arrest and the DA to prosecute, it’s what makes this job very rewarding” added Gravitz. “I do not have just one case that stands out as memorable. It's all the victims and their families that make it not only memorable, but life changing.”
Getting to play Santa is one of the perks for Melissa Lloyd-Wade. She recalls a very touching memory of an autistic man on Tybee Island. “I was taking care of a 57-year-old Autistic man who believed in Santa Claus,” said Wade. “He wanted an United States Army uniform, with the belt, the canteen, the hat, the jacket, the pants, and the boots.” Christmas Eve finally arrived. “He is trying not to fall asleep, but sleep is winning,” smiled Wade. “Santa came and left a big present for him. His eyes literally lit up like a Christmas tree when he saw the huge box with his name on it. He opened the box and inside was a United States Army uniform with the all the accessories.” The patient wore the uniform proudly almost every day. He was later moved to another facility to be closer to his family. “I miss him,” said Wade. “Nursing is not just my job, it's my life. If we could just focus on how we are alike, our differences will eventually go unnoticed.”
Being a floating nurse has its advantages. Campbell, a nurse at St. Joseph’s Candler, said she knows a little bit about a lot of things. “Every day is a different and new adventure,” said Campbell. “I float throughout the hospital. It’s very special when I prescreen a patient in one department one day and end up being their day surgery nurse another day.” Campbell sometimes will continue taking care of the same patient as they are admitted to the hospital after surgery. Campbell said it is very rare a nurse goes through several stages during a patient's hospital stay. “I'm honored,” she said. “It feels great to be able to be with my patient the entire way, by their side. Especially when they are discharged. I feel like I'm done my job, my calling - continuity of care.”