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Nurse eases pain and promotes dignity of patient in final days

July 23, 2021 | Everyday Moments

Provider clasps hand of patient in hospital bed

Tyrel Cronk’s compassionate style gave a family comfort as they said goodbye to their mom.

Losing her mom happened rather quickly.

One thing that made it a little more bearable for Sherrie Fox was the care provided by a nurse at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington.

“Before she ended up in the hospital, Mom had been really tired. After a fall, she had been in a lot of pain,” Sherrie said.

Pinpointing the true nature of the issues causing her pain proved to be challenging.

It wasn’t just one thing. It turned out to be a perfect storm of diverse diagnoses and conditions that made treatment difficult and then impossible. From a mass in the lungs and atrial fibrillation to fractures in the spine and ribs and ultimately the discovery of bone cancer.

A fighter who fed people's souls

“She was a fighter, but her health got so bad, she just accepted what was to come,” Sherrie had said of her mom, who was “super outgoing, very social and always feeding people’s souls.”Donna Spencer

If the cancer had been found sooner, Sherrie said her mother might have had a few years left, but the cancer was an aggressive form and her mom’s asthma and frequent battles with pneumonia didn’t help.

“From the time the mass was discovered to the end was just six weeks,” she said.

And while six weeks isn’t long, it was long enough for the family to have significant conversations. “It gave us the opportunity to talk about things—Mom could tell us her wishes to be cremated and have her ashes spread at the lake where she made a lot of good memories.”

Grateful for comfort care

With input from their mom, Sherrie’s family opted to go with comfort care at PeaceHealth St. Joseph, where they were grateful for her to be under the care of Tyrel Cronk, a nurse in the medical unit. “It was a decision we felt really good about.”

Sherrie’s mom had a bright smile—the kind that everyone talked about. “Even the nurses at the hospital commented on it.”

“Every time Tyrel walked into the room, he spoke to her and acknowledged her…even though in the final 24 hours she wasn’t cognitive or smiling,” Sherrie said. “He was just so compassionate…always asking our family if there was anything we needed.”

This is his calling

“Tyrel checked in on us regularly and always made sure to ask my Mom how she was doing. When my Mom passed, Tyrel was the nurse that checked for a heartbeat. After realizing that there was no heartbeat, he calmly sat next to me and my sister and, with a tear in his eye, told us she was no longer with us.”

Tyrel Cronk“I can’t imagine anyone doing it with more grace,” Sherrie said.

Caring so compassionately for patients and families in these situations is a gift.

“This is his calling…this is what he is meant to do.”

Top photo courtesy of Sherrie Fox: Sherrie's mother, Donna Spencer, gives a soft, gentle smile. Bottom photo courtesy of Tyrel Cronk. When not caring for patients in the hospital, Tyrel enjoys spending time in nature with his family.