Creating A Partnership To Preserve Family Memories

Building Bridges

Grief is love’s unwillingness to let go. In her 7 years as an Intensive Care nurse, Nicole LaTray, RN has witnessed many expressions of grief but a recent request from one patient’s family member truly surprised her.

“Her granddaughter wanted a tattoo of her fingerprint. My patient was on comfort care and it was somewhat of a surprise to the family. She had been ill for some time but this was sudden. They asked me if I could help them obtain her fingerprint because her granddaughter wanted a tattoo,” LaTray said.   Of course she could but it was not a typical request.  “We’ve had families ask to have a pet come visit to say good bye but nothing like this.”

Nicole was undaunted. Fingerprinting materials were not readily available in the Intensive Care Unit so her first call was to her colleague Cayla Ventre, RN.

“I was headed to a meeting, and offered to stop by the Center for Women and Children (CWC) on my way back. I found Amy Parent, RN, and I asked her if her unit had the materials to help us,” Ventre explained. “Not only did she stop everything she was doing to get us the fingerprinting paper and ink, but she found us molds to be able to create an impression of the patient’s hand.”

Some of the CWC staff are certified by Resolve Through Sharing Bereavement Services which helps parents cope with a fetal demise. Included in the process is a kit that allows grieving parents to create keepsakes like a handprint. RTS helps to provide memories of a pregnancy loss and support through that difficult time in life. It is an evidenced based yet compassion-first approach to bereavement care.

 “Having keepsakes like handprints or hair clippings, or tattoos, helps with the grieving process,” Parent explained.  People grieve at their own pace and the keepsakes are around when they are ready.”

Together, the three nursing professionals have a combined 50 years of experience and have witnessed countless times the first breath and the last breath taken by patients. The team effort to find a way to honor and remember a beloved grandmother is indicative of the personal ownership each takes in helping others navigate the circle of life.

The experience has inspired Latray and Ventre to partner together to begin creating a grief kit for creating keepsakes for the families of adult patients as part of a hospital’s bereavement program.