Together Till The End
Married for 52 years, James and Selma DeGroat became critically ill patients at MedStar Franklin Square during the summer of 2009. Although their love story came to an end here as they both passed away, they did so peacefully, side by side and holding hands.
Mrs. DeGroat, who was battling lymphoma, was brought to MedStar Franklin Square after a fall. While here visiting his wife, Mr. DeGroat suffered a brain aneurysm. He was admitted to the ICU on the second floor and placed on life support.
Meanwhile, Mrs. DeGroat was admitted to the oncology unit on the fourth floor. Her own condition began to decline and she slipped into a coma. Their family was split between both floors and faced with the difficult decision of taking Mr. DeGroat off of life support. That's when the idea to move the couple into the same room arose.
Mary Ridenour, RN, one of the nurses caring for Mr. DeGroat, discussed the move with Mrs. DeGroat's nurse, Carol DelaCruz, RN, and then with the family. "We knew it was what was best for them after speaking with the family. Once the decision was made, we took him off of life support and raced him up there because we didn't think he would last long," Ridenour says.
Mr. DeGroat's bed was placed next to his wife's and the bed rails were lowered so they were truly side by side.
"They put his hand on top of her hand. She opened her eyes and looked at him. She definitely knew he was with her and then she went back into a coma," says daughter-in-law Carolyn DeGroat.
"To see them lying in bed, holding hands ... I don't think I've seen anything like that in my 20 years of nursing. It was just incredible," Ridenour says.
Mr. and Mrs. DeGroat stayed that way for nearly two days before passing, just hours apart.
"I believe my father was waiting for my mother," says daughter Debbie Tate. "Once she passed, he went five hours later."
The difficult loss was made easier by the care the family received while at MedStar Franklin Square. "The nurses, especially Mary, were really great," says Tate.
"When the time came, it was up to the nurses to quickly assess the situation and the family's need to have them together, to keep the family together," says Cherie Smith, director of Pastoral Care services. "This speaks to the high level of sensitivity, to nursing leadership, to nurses' autonomy ... all of those things that make a Magnet nurse."
For Ridenour, it's just a part of being a nurse. "It's such a small thing that we did to make things easier for the family," she says. "It's nice to have a small gesture make such a big difference for someone."
The Meaning of "Magnet"
MedStar Franklin Square is proud of its nurses, whom it calls a "Strength of the Square," and is equally proud to be a Magnet-designated hospital. Magnet designation is the highest level of nursing excellence a hospital can achieve, awarded by the prestigious American Nurses Credentialing Center, a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association.
It gives assurance by an unbiased national organization that it has carefully examined a hospital and deemed it one that its patients and the community can trust to provide high quality care. Just 5 percent of U.S. hospitals have achieved this honor.
While Magnet status is a reflection of MedStar Franklin Square's professional, skilled and caring nurses, sometimes it takes a personal story to show just exactly what that means.
"The story of James and Selma DeGroat was a prime example of how our nurses deliver the utmost in compassionate care and act in the best interest of their patients and the patients' families," says Larry Strassner, PhD, RN, FACHE, NEA -BC, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services. "This is just one of the qualities that make us a Magnet hospital."