Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Emergency Nurse Hero

My emergency nurse hero is Jennifer Whalen.

In the clinical setting, she was an ER nurse par excellence. Her intelligence and compassion shone through in her work. A self-confessed Type A personality, she quickly became the epitome of what an ER nurse should be: smart, focused, driven, determined, and with a kick-ass attitude with the goal of giving her patient the best care ever.

And then she became the patient. With the shocking news of her Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Jennifer rallied her friends and her co-workers as her Hermione army; to support and to cheer her as she tried to apply that same determination in the fight of her life.

She was incredibly strong and amazingly positive. In my work as a nurse, I have seen extraordinary acts of courage and heroism around me. But I have never seen anyone as inspirational as Jennifer.

After the diagnosis of the Big C, she used her second chances. To mobilize her army of supporters. To reconnect with old friends. To mend broken fences. To share her incredible optimism. To find love again.

Here was a woman who bared her soul and selflessly shared her journey with the rest of us. She left her own legacy of strength and fortitude. And she taught us all valuable lessons in life. She was a master educator and her fight for her life was her lesson plan.

Jen passed away today, Dec, 21, 2013, finally pain-free, in her sleep surrounded by her loving family. In the hospice where she finally accepted the path she was to take. I wish that there was no doubt in her heart of how she had forever changed us, that she would know that she is much loved and admired. Not just by her own family and close friends, but even by those who had seen from afar how special she truly is. In her last moments, she was not alone.

We are forever changed. Jen had left her footprints in our hearts. She had been courageous more than I can ever hope to be. Among the hardworking nurses of Elmhurst ED, she had excelled.

Jennifer Whalen, RN, BSN, CEN, she was a gift to all she touched.

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