Retired and ready for a big adventure, Arlene and Bob McNeil set off from their North Carolina home this past fall in a brand-new 23-foot camper van bound for the warm shores of Florida.
But their vacation plans took a dramatic turn when Bob became seriously ill on the first day of their trip.
Camped at Hunting Island State Park, the couple called 911 and took an ambulance to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, leaving their van at the park.
“He was vomiting and experiencing severe abdominal pain,” Arlene McNeil said of her husband. “He has a stomach of iron so I knew it was serious.”
What they initially thought was food poisoning turned out to be a bowel obstruction that required an emergency operation. With their van a 30-minute drive away and Bob laid up in a hospital room recovering from major surgery, the couple found themselves in a pickle with no one to call for help.
Feeling their pain, two Beaufort Memorial nurses – Andy Scott and Kathleen Stovall – came to their rescue. With the help of two more BMH employees, arrangements were made to bring the camper to the hospital and park it in a space with an electric hook up.
“It was divine intervention that we ended up at Beaufort Memorial Hospital,” Arlene McNeil said. “Without the help of these two angels, I don’t know what we would have done.”
The McNeils were so grateful for the compassion Scott and Stovall showed them, they nominated them for the DAISY Award for Exceptional Nurses. The prestigious national honor, reserved for RNs who go the extra mile to care for patients and their families, was awarded to the two nurses last week in a surprise ceremony at the hospital.
“We are very honored and feel it’s all part of connecting with our patients,” Stovall said after receiving the trophy. “They were super nice people and I enjoyed helping them.”
“It’s better for both patient and nurse when a connection is made,” Scott added.
The nurses each received a vase full of daisies and a hand-carved sculpture titled “A Healer’s Touch.”
Scott, the nurse assigned to care for the 73-year-old McNeil, initiated the relief efforts upon learning of the couple’s predicament. He called Stovall, who works with him in the fourth-floor unit but had the day off. Stovall took it from there.
She picked up McNeil from the hospital and drove her to the park. Because McNeil’s campsite reservation was for just one night and the campground was fully booked, she found herself with no place to leave the van.
Determined to find a solution, Stovall spoke with Beaufort Memorial Safety/Emergency Management supervisor Chris Haley to see if there was a big enough parking space at the hospital where McNeil could park the camper. Haley found a spot and then recruited maintenance associate Stanley Ganshow to go with him to the park and drive the van to the hospital.
Although McNeil stayed at her husband’s bedside during his 11-day recovery, having the camper at the hospital allowed her to use it as a basecamp where she could eat and change clothes.
“Everyone at Beaufort Memorial was so wonderful,” McNeil said. “It’s not just a job to them. They truly care about their patients.”
The DAISY Award was created in 1999 by a Seattle couple as a way to honor the nurses who took care of their son before he died. It has since been adopted by healthcare facilities all over the world. Anyone can nominate a Beaufort Memorial nurse for the DAISY Award. Applications are available throughout the hospital.