By Kim Rose; Photo by Todd Taylor

“Random happiness.”

This was the subject line of an email written by Sarah Graham, M.D., a UF College of Medicine emergency medicine resident. She was so moved by events in the UF Health Shands E.R. that she wrote to Thomas Payton, M.D., M.B.A., FACEP, UF Health Shands Hospital vice chair of clinical operations and UF Health Shands E.R. medical director. Graham was eager to share how the E.R. team pulled together in separate scenarios to care for two patients as they would their own family members.

First, Graham shared a story about the E.R. team making sure a patient’s dog was cared for during its owner’s health crisis. While driving a semi- truck, the patient had suffered a heart attack and had to pull over, leaving his vehicle at the side of the road. When he arrived at our E.R., he told the care team he was worried about his dog, which had been left in the vehicle.

(From left) Amanda Gonzalez, R.N., B.S.N., CCRN, float nurse; Liam Holtzman, D.O., FACEP, UF College of Medicine emergency medicine attending physician; Jillianne Grayson, M.D., UF College of Medicine neurology resident; and Sarah Graham, M.D., UF College of Medicine emergency medicine resident.

Diana Mora, M.D., a UF College of Medicine emergency medicine resident, and John David Boyd, B.S.N., R.N., an E.R. nurse, took action. Boyd walked down the road to the patient’s vehicle and retrieved the animal and its bed. Mora cared for the dog and even looked after the pet at her home while their patient recovered at UF Health Shands Hospital.

That same week, the E.R. team cared for a dying patient who was without loved ones present. Graham described the patient as “a precious elderly lady” and explained how Jillianne Grayson, M.D., a UF College of Medicine neurology resident, stayed with the patient while the team decided how to manage her care. Grayson communicated with the patient’s family by phone.

The entire team, including Liam Holtzman, D.O., FACEP, a UF College of Medicine emergency medicine attending physician, made every effort to ensure the patient’s dignity.

The woman’s relatives asked the team to have a chaplain read the patient her last rites. Concerned the chaplain could not get there in time, two E.R. nurses — Dana Wilkerson, M.S.N., R.N., and Charity Hallahan, R.N. — stepped in to fulfill the request and read last rites. Meanwhile, Amanda Gonzalez, R.N., a float nurse newly assigned to the E.R., stayed with the patient and even played 1950s music from her phone for the patient through her final hours.“Amanda felt that if the patient could hear it, she would be reminded of when she was young,” Graham said. “I felt like everyone involved in the care treated the patient with so much respect and I am humbled by their compassion.”

Ending her email, Graham said, “These things have made me so proud to work here!”

In response, Payton emailed back, “Your email absolutely made my whole day, if not the whole year. Your observations of the incredible acts of kindness and compassion that take place in our chaotic world remind all of us why we come to work, and also remind us that our daily challenges and frustrations can melt away so quickly when stories like these occur.”

He added, “These acts, most often done quietly and without fanfare, are simply inspiring, and help all of us to stay focused on our real purpose. Thank you for taking the time to recognize your friends and colleagues, and for your empathy and kindness that you also display every day. I appreciate you.”