Nurse Hailed as Hero after Compassionate Act in Couple’s Final Hours

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Young woman sitting and holding a certificate

There are many words used to describe a nurse – A caretaker. An advocate. An educator. And in one family’s case – a hero.

Registered nurse Melissa Barajas saw art imitating life, ala “The Notebook”, earlier this year when a married couple died within hours of each other at HCA Healthcare-affiliate Clear Lake Regional Medical Center. The Texas natives, Edward and Josephine Suarez, had been married for 68 years before a car accident sent them to our Bay Area Houston hospital in critical condition.

For roughly four days, Melissa, an ICU nurse, cared for Josephine and provided comfort and support for family members at her bedside. Josephine’s son Chris said around 1 a.m. one morning his mother wanted to see his dad, Edward, who was receiving medical treatment on the same floor.

“My mother told me, ‘I have to see your Daddy,’” Chris said. “It was out of the blue and she was very passionate about seeing him. I spoke with (her nurse) Melissa, who was compassionate and understood how important this request was.”

“With the help of Melissa and the charge nurse, by 2 a.m., my mom was moved into my dad’s room,” Chris recalled.

They held hands and said their “I love yous”, Chris said, and remained together until around 6 a.m. His dad Edward died approximately three hours later; mom Josephine passed away on the next day.

“You all brought some peace and closure to a family that was having a pretty rough time,” Chris said. “My parents’ time together that night was the bittersweet ending to their great love story. Melissa is a hero, especially in my family’s eyes.”

For her act of compassion in the Suarez’s final hours, Melissa, who joined Clear Lake Regional as a new graduate in 2014, was honored in March with The DAISY Award for extraordinary nursing.

“We are proud of the compassionate care our nurses give every patient, every day,” Andrea Harrow, Chief Nursing Officer at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, said. “It’s important that our nurses know their work is highly valued, and The DAISY Foundation provides a way for us to do that.”

To the Suarez family, Melissa was a hero. To others, they may call her an angel. A counselor. A lifesaver.

But to Melissa, she’s a nurse. And proud to make a difference in the lives of her patients and their families.

The DAISY Foundation was established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, who died at age 33 from complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP).  The nursing care Patrick received during his illness inspired a recognition program to honor the superhuman work nurses do for patients and families.  

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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