Close up of healthcare worker's hand with a blue glove giving support and love to a patient experiencing grief during the holiday season.

From Nurses, For Nurses: Stories of Love from the Bedside 

This past Valentine’s Day, nurses around the country shared hundreds of stories of special connections they witnessed on the job. From other nurses to patients to patients’ families, these stories of love — sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes both — highlight the incredible difference a nurse can make in the lives they touch.  

Here are just a few. 

I kept bumping into stars” 

I had a lovely patient, an artist, whose husband had died some years before. Her little apartment was crammed with art, including beautiful scenes from their time spent out West: mountains, starry nights, and valleys with cacti and wildflowers. As they had no children, her two nieces were taking turns caring for her.  

When her time drew close, the two cousins came together to be with her at the end. In the days leading up to her death she had been sleeping most of the time, and her breaths and pulse rate and blood pressure were all growing weaker and weaker. [Then] she’d rally. Her little eyes would fly open, and she’d look around at us and always let out a hearty laugh. Her eyes would crinkle with joy, and she’d be so excited. Then she’d trail off to sleep again.  

On the evening of her death, I took a turn sitting with her so the cousins could eat together and get some rest. Suddenly, my patient raised her arms and lifted them in front of her. Her brows furrowed from time to time, and she’d let out a gentle “owww,” and quickly shifted her arms as if she were flying, trying to get around something. Then again, “Ouch, ohhhhh, oops!” and the sweetest laughter when she would jerk her arms again to the other side. Her arms would dip, sway, and lift. There was constant laughter, and “oohing” and “ahhhing,” and the occasional surprising “ouch!” and then the laughter again.   

I called the nieces and told them to come quickly. The three of us sat around for the longest time and watched this spectacle, marveling at her laughter and the gentle movement of her uplifted arms. Finally, she grew restless, and her arms fell back to her sides. Moments later, her eyes flew open to the three of us standing over her. I don’t know what possessed me, but I asked her as soon as she smiled at us, “What was happening to you?”  

Twenty years have passed, and I still remember her startling answer. “I was going up to heaven and I kept bumping into stars.”   

Then she laughed and closed her eyes and never opened them again. 

Submitted by Mary McCollough 

Related: Hospice and Palliative Care for Healthcare Professionals 

He won my respect” 

I was working night shift on the pediatric unit. We were getting a patient from recovery that had just had surgery. A male (orderly, I assumed) brought the patient up and helped me get the patient settled in bed. After that, he handed me the chart, then proceeded to read off the orders. When he was done, he asked if I had any questions before he left. At that point, I realized this man was the surgeon.  

This surgeon, who was new to the hospital, blew me away with his help, from getting the patient settled in bed to making sure I had all the info I needed. Usually, someone other than the doctor brings the patient and leaves. This surgeon won my respect. 

Submitted by Carol Eberly 

Stories of love: A special goodbye 

I have many stories to tell, but this one touched my life and comes to me often. I was the manager at a small hospital in a small town. We had received a woman on hospice who was dying of cancer. The family could not bear to see her go, so she was admitted for respite. All her children were at her side, except for one son, who was in prison. 

Sometimes when people are dying, they will hang on, hoping to see someone one last time before passing. The prison had denied a request to let the son go home to see his mother. I went to the hospital administrator and explained the situation to him. We got on the phone to the warden, and finally was able to convince him to transport the son four hours from state prison.  

When I went back to my patient, I whispered “Please hang on, because I have a surprise for you.”  

The rest of the family had all left to prepare last-minute funeral arrangements when the prison transport arrived. The guards brought the son in through the back. He was shackled, cuffed, and heavily guarded. He begged the guards to give him some private time, but they refused. I explained that I was the manager, and I would stay with him. They could stand at door, and I would yell if he tried something crazy. Finally, they agreed.  

The young man talked to his mother about the happy times they had together. He sang songs that they’d sung when he was growing up, recalled special places, recounted fun secrets, and told her how much he loved her. He held her hand the whole time.  

The guards knocked on the door and told him it was time to go. When he left, his mother had a smile and radiant glow.  

She passed before they’d cleared the outside door. I was going to tell him but decided not to ruin such a special goodbye. Later that day, I went back to my office and cried. 

Submitted by Barbara Latham 

Celebrate more amazing nursing stories in our Nurses’ Month hub.