Comforting a Grieving Family

Lee-Ann LaBombard Awarded CVPH’s First DAISY Leader Award

In the final hours of a loved one’s life, many family members want to be as close by as possible to share their love and say goodbye. The University of Vermont Health Network-Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) Patient Advocate Manager Lee-Ann Labombard’s touching compassion ensured a local family’s needs were met in one of its darkest hours, and that is why she is the hospital’s first recipient of the DAISY Leader Award.

LaBombard was nominated by Ashley Pray, a granddaughter of the late North Country trailblazer and founder of Rulfs Orchard in Peru, Bob Rulfs.

“Lee-Ann has such a helpful, kind, and above all else, a caring demeanor about her,” Pray writes in her nomination.

She came to know Lee-Ann after getting the devastating news in June 2022 that her beloved grandfather was admitted to CVPH and was not expected to make it. She rushed to the hospital to be with “Grandpa Bob” and met up with a large contingent of family already there.

“Our family is quite large. My grandparents had four children, and then there are 12 grandchildren. So you can imagine we can be quite the crowd when gathered together,” Pray says.

Many of the family members came together at the entrance next to the Emergency Department. But it wasn’t an area that was conducive to privacy. And it wasn’t nearly as close as Pray and the rest of the Rulfs family wanted to be to their legendary loved one. At that time, COVID visitor protocols were in place but the CVPH Welcome Policy offered some flexibility to care teams to accommodate families during the last hours of their loved ones’ lives.

That’s where LaBombard, as a Patient Advocate Manager, came in. Pray contacted LaBombard, explaining the situation and the hope that the family could be closer to Rulfs as he received end-of-life care. After speaking to his doctors and the nursing unit’s leadership team, LaBombard was able to open up the solarium to the family.

“Lee-Ann went with us up to the floor and made sure that we were settled and as close to my grandfather’s room as we could be,” Pray recalls.

LaBombard, who is registered nurse, requested a Comfort Cart for the family so they had some light refreshments and continued checking in with Pray and other family members to make sure they had what they needed.

“I am and will be forever grateful for Lee-Ann and everything that she did for our family. She made sure that I could be close to my grandfather during his final hours with us,” Pray adds. “Lee-Ann was a comfort for us during a very sad time for our family.”

“Everyone who ever met Grandpa Bob at Rulfs has a memory of him, from visiting him at the orchard to kids taking field trips there and picking pumpkins,” she continues. “I think the community would be happy and thankful to know that Lee-Ann made it possible for Grandpa to have his family with him during his final time on earth.”

During a surprise ceremony, LaBombard was presented with a certificate commending her as an extraordinary nurse. She, like all honorees, also received a DAISY Award pin and a beautiful and meaningful sculpture called “A Healer’s Touch,” which is hand-carved by artists of the Shona Tribe in Zimbabwe.

CVPH launched the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses in 2018 as a way to recognize and reward licensed nurses for making a meaningful difference in the lives of their patients. This year, the hospital has added DAISY Awards to recognize nurse leaders and nurse-led teams. Nomination forms and boxes are located at each of the hospital’s main entrances and on the CVPH website. Nurses may be nominated by patients, families and colleagues. A committee reviews nominations and awards a deserving staff nurse each quarter, a nurse leader twice a year and a nurse-led team annually.

The award is part of the DAISY Foundation’s mission to recognize the extraordinary, compassionate care licensed nurses provide to patients and families every day. The DAISY Foundation is a national not-for-profit organization, established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes by members of his family.  Patrick died at the age of 33 in late 1999 from complications of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a little known but not uncommon auto-immune disease (DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System). The care Patrick and his family received from nurses while he was ill inspired this unique means of thanking nurses for making a profound difference in the lives of their patients and patient families. More information is available on the DAISY Foundation website.

Watch the Surprise Ceremony