Gail LeClair Treats Our Patients Like Family

Nursing professional offers comfort

 “I just thought: what if this was my father?,” explained Gail LeClair, Patient Care Operations Director as she recounts a day that began like many others but turned out to be quite special.  That thought was the first thing that came to mind as she walked into the Intensive Care Unit Waiting area to check on an elderly man who was transported to the hospital with his daughter who had a massive heart attack.

The Patient Care Coordinator had asked Gail to check on the father. It's not part of her daily responsibilities but the 39-year nursing veteran of CVPH was covering for a colleague who took the day off.  Gail’s CVPH career includes serving as a staff nurse and as a leader in Perioperative, Ambulatory Surgery, Medical Surgical areas.  In her current role, she manages the Resource Center working with a team to assure that there is enough staffing in place and beds available for patients.  

Patient Care Coordinators (PCC) serve as off shift supervisors and that morning they briefed Gail on the night’s activities which included the arrival of the patient, now in ICU, and her father.  “The patient was brought into the Emergency Room in full cardiac arrest – she was a full code, but was revived and that morning was in ICU. The PCC reported that her father may need some assistance. She was his primary caretaker.”

In the ICU Waiting Area she found the patient’s father, alone. “I introduced myself and asked if he was hungry – if he needed anything.  At first he didn’t seem to understand that it was his daughter who was in the ICU or that they lived together. He was confused and not quite sure what was going on,” Gail said.  He had arrived to CVPH in the wee hours of the morning and Gail surmised that it had been several hours since he had last eaten.

Her nursing skills in full gear, Gail found a wheelchair and she and her new friend headed to the cafeteria for a snack.  The sheer number of choices of food items in the hospital cafeteria overwhelmed the man but eventually, he settled on a fruit cup. The pair took a seat in the café and Gail tried to use the time to find out more. “I was trying to learn if he was a diabetic. Did he take medication? Who was his family doctor?  He just wanted to go home. He was tired.”

Snack complete, the two returned to ICU.  “I took him to his daughter’s room and tried to get him settled. I thought he must be tired. But he just sat there looking at his daughter with all of those tubes and monitors. He looked at me, with tears in his eyes and said, ‘I wish my daughter was better.’  I assured him that we’d take very good care of her.”

A short time passed and once again, the patient’s father became anxious.  “He kept trying to leave. He wanted to go home.”  Gail secured another wheelchair and the two traveled outside to the Circle of Hope, a special spot on the hospital’s grounds that features the Angel of Hope statue. It’s a quiet spot for staff, patients and visitors to reflect, remember and relax.

Meanwhile, the ICU staff continued their fight to keep his daughter alive and case managers were reaching out to family members, health care providers and community agencies to be sure the man would be cared for, regardless of the outcome. Once a volunteer was recruited to take over for Gail, she left her friend, reluctantly.  “He couldn’t tell us what he needed or wanted.   He could have been any one our family members,” Gail said.  “I would want someone to help.”

(Update:  The man was connected with family who were grateful of the team’s efforts.)