September 16, 2016
Moore Mission Moments - The Watershed Group


by Patti Moore


For most people, death is something that happens at the periphery of their lives – but some of us choose to make it the focus of our careers. I knew early on I wanted to care for the sick, but my path to caring for the dying was more circuitous.


As a kid I was given a book on how to take a pulse.  I loved learning to feel the beat under the skin on my wrist.  I asked for the “Visible Woman” for my 10th birthday and to my delight she was delivered, complete with the optional pregnancy parts. My path was set; after high school, I decided to get an AA degree and then transfer to University of Florida for my Bachelors Degree in Nursing. 


My first real job as a RN was on a medical surgical floor in the local hospital where I had the responsibility of caring for patients following surgery. One of my patients was Mr. Green, who’d had surgery for lung cancer and was in and out of the hospital. In those days there was little to be done for people with cancer.  They were put in a room at the end of the long hallway and given pain shots on a strict schedule to prevent narcotic dependency.


This time he was frailer, weaker, not eating and barely speaking.  We knew he would probably not go home.  He had been prescribed a Demerol injection which was to be given exactly every 4 hours “as needed”.  When his distraught wife would come asking for her husband’s injection, I had to tell her,  “I know he’s hurting, but we have to wait until it’s time.'"


This particular day, she was insistent: “But he’s in such terrible pain; can’t you give it a little early, or call the doctor?”  “No, we cannot give it early and I have already called the doctor.” It was difficult not being able to ease his agony or his wife’s anxiety.


Finally, it was time; I took the hypodermic down to his room.  He was very pale, yet still thanked me for my attention, and I could see him relax as the drug took effect. I returned to the nursing station. Fifteen minutes passed – then I heard screaming from down the hall: “You have killed him, you have killed him!” Mrs. Green stumbled from her husband’s room, sobbing and screaming and pointing at me. 


Oh my God, did I? As a new nurse I was stunned to think I’d somehow caused his death, and it was all I could do not to burst into tears too. The head nurse came to Mrs. Green’s rescue, and to mine. We went to his room and indeed he had died. My supervisor told me to go to the break room and wait for her.  She called the doctor, calmed Mrs. Green down and called her family, then came to see me. 


“You did not kill Mr. Green,” she said. “But I gave him that shot and he died!” I cried.  “Mr. Green was ready to die, he was just in too much pain to let go. The shot was what helped him to finally let go.”  I didn’t know if I believed her or not, but I felt better knowing he was no longer suffering with agonizing pain.


I knew then that easing pain and grief at the end of life was the work I wanted to do; when I first learned of hospice, I knew I’d found my calling.  I’ve borne witness to many deaths since my first; I’ve done what I could to smooth the passage for the dying and their loved ones, and it has been the most meaningful work I could have imagined. I have wrapped myself in the cloak of death in order to live life as vibrantly as possible. 



After a week spent in remembrance of one of our nation’s darkest hours, we could all use a reminder that one caring individual can shine a powerful light of hope and change the lives of many.  


2,687 people who were working at the World Trade Center owe their lives to Rick Rescorla, who as director of security for Morgan Stanley died during the attacks of September 11 while leading evacuees from the South Tower. This beautifully- written account of his life is a classic piece from the New Yorker:


“Rick Rescorla, always wearing his suit jacket and tie despite sweating profusely, kept people marching down the right side of the dark staircase, singing into his bullhorn, as firemen and rescue personnel raced up. At one point, he had nearly been overcome by the heat, and had to sit down on the stairs. But he kept singing or speaking reassuringly. “Slow down, pace yourself,” he told one group. “Today is a day to be proud to be an American.”


The heroism and humanity of Irene Sendler, a Polish nurse who “declared war on Hitler” and who personally saved at least 2,500 Jewish children from the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto, is an amazing story that’s too little known. Watch this brief documentary to be reminded of what one good person can accomplish in a world gone mad – and makes me even prouder of being a nurse!


And surely it was the spirit of human kindness that inspired Jean Makesh, CEO of Lantern assisted living facilities in Madison, Ohio, to create a beautiful environment in which to care for dementia patients.  "What if we design an environment that looks like outside?" he said. "What if I can have a sunrise and sunset inside the building? What if I'm able to have the moon and stars come out? What if I build a unit that takes residents back to the '30s and '40s?" And that was just the beginning. He also researched sound therapy. And aromatherapy. And carpet that looked like grass. No idea was off-limits.”


Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties, is set to open their new hospice care facility in Colchester, Vermont in mid-September. Simply put, after 25 years the VNA had run out of room at the Vermont Respite House, which the Administrator Sharon Keegan described as “just perfect” with its homey atmosphere, an aquarium in the front sitting room, and the smell of brownies seemingly always wafting from the kitchen. But demand for end-of-life hospice care has grown in the past two and a half decades. Last year, 230 people received care at the Vermont Respite House, an increase of 50 percent in a decade. Keegan said occasionally there has not been a room available in time. … The $8.6 million for the new facility is still being raised. Ann Irwin of the VNA said $5.5 million has been contributed so far.


I was so honored to be named by the University of Florida College of Nursing as one of “60 Gator Nurse Greats” in honor of the College of Nursing’s 60th Anniversary at the school’s Donor Recognition Event on September 9th. Honorees were chosen from among the school’s 10,000 graduates as exemplifying the College’s motto: “Care. Lead. Inspire.”


According to Anna McDaniel Dean, UF College of Nursing, recipients of the Gator Nurse Great awards are among the school’s “most accomplished and inspirational graduates. Ms. Moore was among the 20 alumni who personify the ideals of “Inspire””.


I was so fortunate to have received both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Nursing from the University of Florida; my nursing education at UF was the foundation for all of the work I have done to serve those frail and dying people across the country. My instructors were role models of excellence and professional caring, and I felt a very high bar had been set for me to live up to the standards of the UF College of Nursing.  I tell young people who are considering a career in health care to go into nursing and don’t settle for less than an advanced degree.  My UF education has opened doors that I never dreamed possible.  I am humbled and honored to have been selected for this award.


Patti Moore BSN, MSN, a "Gator Nurse Great"

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