Nurse's Heart | CHCM
By CHCM

A Nurse’s Heart

By Mr. Jeff Evoy

In 2015 I was working for a major healthcare system’s IT Department as a Sr. Manager in the Sacramento area. I was following up with my urologist, a member of another major health system and was informed I had a tumor on my bladder wall and recommended surgery to remove my bladder and probably my prostate. I asked him where he thought the best place would be for my treatment, and without hesitation, he referred me the UC Davis Cancer Center. I will mention that neither of us were affiliated with UC Davis Health or their Cancer Center. I knew UC Davis had a presence in our community like the organizations my urologist and I worked for. What I was unaware of was the impact of UC Davis Health’s culture, the emphasis on Relationship-Based Care┬« or their national Nursing Magnet┬« Hospital designation would have on my health and healing. All I knew was I was facing the battle of my life and the UC Davis healthcare team were going to be the ones to partner with me through the incredible journey back to health and where I am today.

I underwent six weeks of chemotherapy at the UC Davis Cancer Center

In October 2015 I underwent six weeks of chemotherapy at the UC Davis Cancer Center, the staff who were with me during this time were nothing less than loving and compassionate people. Early January 2016 a UC Davis Surgical Oncologist fashioned me a “neobladder” from a six-inch section of my lower intestine. He sat with me and explained the procedure necessary to bring me back to my healthy self has the highest rate of post-operative complications and the highest rate of hospital re-admissions of any surgery in medicine. The surgery was successful, I was safely discharged home, and my complications started immediately.

Just a week at home and my pain kept increasing. I was readmitted to the hospital with a suspected bowel obstruction. They performed a second surgery to clear the obstruction. After the bowel obstruction surgery I experienced a multitude of complications and went into a severe delirium for the next 28 days.

The doctors started me on antipsychotic drugs, and I became combative and violent. I was placed in restraints for days on end. A psychiatrist informed the nurses, “Minimize the use of restraints. It tends to prolong the delirium.” What were those poor nurses to do — if they removed the restraints, I pulled out all my tubes. Leaving the restraints on exacerbated my difficult behaviors . My clinical team had to make tough decisions every day.

Simple Tasks Became Quite Complex

By the time my agitation and combativeness resolved I had lost 44 pounds and was so weak I couldn’t move myself. The doctors said I had to start walking, the idea of getting out of bed was overwhelming and seemed an impossibility. Janice, my nurse coached me on how to get out of bed, simple tasks became quite complex and difficult. It took every ounce of strength I had just to stand up behind that walker. With Janice’s caring and loving patience, I stared down that mile-long hallway saying, “I can’t do it.” She gently placed her hand on my arm, “Let’s not go all the way around the unit. How about if we just go to right there?” as she pointed to a mark on the floor. Janice walked every step of the way with me, encouraging me. “You’re looking good, Mr. Evoy. You’re doing great, Mr. Evoy! You’ve got this!” I don’t know how I did it but I do know Janice was an important factor in walking those 100 feet. I felt like I walked 100 miles. Janice became the key to my recovery.

For most of my stay I needed the nasogastric tube inserted through my nose to my stomach. Eventually, the tube was used to provide my nourishment. During my periods of delirium, I would pull the tube out only to fight the nurses when they had to re-insert it. The nourishment solution would frequently plug the tube and I would beg the nurses to try and free it up instead of replacing it, but they just couldn’t do it — except for one champion on the night shift named Demmolesh. He had the master plumber’s touch and could get that NG tube working again when no one else could. One morning it plugged up right after he went home and I cried out, “Oh, no! He won’t be back for twelve hours.” I waited all day and got quite hungry, this was my food source, I begged the nurses to wait for him, and they did, the nurses all had my back. That evening when Demmolesh came in, I remember like yesterday, he spread out his tool set of syringes, wire and soda and spent the next two hours wrestling with that NG tube until he finally got it flowing free again. That young man hopped around the room saying, “I got it working! I got it working!”

I ask myself, “why do nurses do things like that?”

I ask myself, “why do nurses do things like that?” Nurses have a lot to do, Demmolesh didn’t have to take the time and yet he did, he saw a frightened, beat-up, defeated old man and he was determined to do whatever he could to minimize my pain because he has a true Nurse’s Heart. After regaining my senses, that NG tube plugged up five times and he saved me every time — Demmolesh is my hero!

I kept failing swallow tests, so they put me on a pureed diet. I was less than thrilled with the food and I was complaining to the ICU nurse Yuri (also my barber during my stay) about how bad it tasted. “I’d give anything for a glass of cold orange juice!” I hadn’t had anything down my throat for over three months. A short time later Yuri came in, placed a cup on my tray and said, “Here you go. It’s safe.” He had thickened up orange juice so I could drink it. [Nothing ever tasted so good]{.underline}!!! I ask again, why do nurses do things like this? Yuri saw a patient who hadn’t had a ray of sunshine in his life for months and he was going to do what he could to brighten up my day, because he, too has a Nurse’s Heart.

One day Debbie came in and said, ‘The nurses told me I can take you outside.” I wasn’t even dreaming of going outside, but as those hospital doors opened and she pushed me out under the open sky a tsunami of emotions flooded over me. It wasn’t just that I had been cooped up inside for months, I never thought I would see or feel the sun and fresh air again. To see the clouds, feel the wind on my face, and hear the birds. I was overwhelmed.

That’s When I Knew I Was Going to Leave There Alive

The day came when I reached the point where I felt I could walk alone. The morning Janice arrived at my door, I quickly told her, “Today I fly solo. I don’t want any help with anything.” She stepped back and said, “You’re on your own.” I got out of bed, went out into the hallway, and started my lap around the unit unaccompanied. As I came to each station, the nurses stood to their feet and cheered me on. “Way to go, Mr. Evoy. Looking good, Mr. Evoy. You got this!” That’s when I knew I was going to leave there alive. I wanted to call out, “I love you!” But then I realized “here was a creepy old guy wearing a bedsheet, face all taped up with tubes sticking out and bags hanging all off me.” I figured they didn’t want to hear that! I felt their Nurse’s Heart.

A year after my discharge I received an invitation from the staff on Davis 12 to come for a luncheon visit. As I was stepping off the elevator the nurses came up and hugged me, complimenting my good looks. I was looking through the gathered nurses, looking to see one nurse. As Janice came down the hallway our eyes met, we hugged and all we could do was cry. Neither one could speak, Janice finally looked up at me, shrugged her shoulders, and returned to her work. Janice came into the room where we were meeting twice more, we couldn’t get a word out, and we knew what we meant to each other. There was just too much there. This young lady held me both figuratively and literally as she walked with me through hell and back. She never hesitated to step into my room, not knowing what she was going to get hit with. On multiple occasions, they had to bring in four men just to hold me down. One of them told me one time, “We couldn’t believe how strong you were, for an old guy!”

Sometime later I was invited to speak at a Re-Igniting the Spirit of Caring workshop. I shared my experiences and at the end there was a stunned silence. Many of the attendees were crying. Then one of the nurses said, “I’ve been a nurse for 30 years and you just totally changed the way I see the patient!”

I have Spoken to Over 1,000 People in Over 50 Workshops

In the past six years I have spoken to over 1,000 people in over 50 workshops, staff meetings and executive sessions and have been astounded at the response to my story. A nurse stopped me in the hospital and said, “You spoke at Re-Igniting the Spirit of Caring last year.” I asked how it went for him. “I was gonna quit, but I’m still here!” I said, “Thanks, man. We need you!”

As I was leaving the auditorium after a talk, a nurse had stepped out and was leaning against the wall crying. She came up to me and said, “Thank you, sir for coming here today and making me remember why I do this!” One workshop attendee said, “I’m in this class because I am so burnt out working with delirium patients. And for you to come here today and thank us for what we had to do to you — it makes a difference!”

I spoke to the team of ICU Pharmacists and the supervisor told me UC Davis has changed the way they administer pain meds based on my story. UC Davis has also changed the way they treat delirium patients based on my story.

A nurse once asked if I regretted deciding to get the neobladder instead of just hanging a bag off my leg, since that’s what triggered all the complications. I replied, “Not for one minute. If I hadn’t chosen it, I never would have met you or all the other nurses who have become such an important part of my life. I would do it all over again.”

God can take the most horrific experiences in our lives and turn them into something wonderful!

Mr. Evoy’s Complete (1-hour) Story

Mr. Evoy is still working for UC Davis Health as a Clinical Informatics Specialist. He and Debbie have three children and seven grandchildren.

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