'Til Death Do Us Part

The med/surg unit at Walla Walla General Hospital, Walla Walla, Washington, was quiet except for the hum of the ventilator. It was late and most patients were asleep — but not Dale.

As he lay on the cot next to his wife’s hospital bed, he reached through the bars to stroke her hand and whisper softly in her ear. Even though the patient was slipping away, he believed she could still hear him and wanted to be near him.

When Suzanne Timms, a registered nurse, saw this gesture of love and tenderness, she knew Dale and his wife of almost 60 years, needed to be closer.

“It was like he was in a jail cell, separated from her, reaching through the bars to hold her hand,” recalls Timms. “He had slept beside her for all these years and I could tell he wanted to that night.”

With this thought, Timms had an idea. After moving Dale’s cot out of the room, she made a spot for him next to his wife. As Timms helped him into the bed, Dale's grin showed he knew where he was supposed to be.

The railing on the bed had to be kept up so Dale wouldn’t fall off, but according to him it was perfect because he was able to stay next to his wife for the entire night.

When Timms came in to check on them, she witnessed something beautiful. Dale was lying on his side with one arm around his wife and the other above his head. He was gently running his fingers through her hair and whispering to her.

“That is how I spent my last night with my wife,” says Dale. “It was a gift from Heaven — inspired.”

Timms adds, “It was the most beautiful thing. God knows what we need; maybe He sent me to be their nurse because He knew Dale and his wife needed to spend their last night together.”

Dale’s wife died the next morning and he was there beside her. Even though he lost his wife, Dale received a priceless gift in the last moments he was able to spend with her.

“What a treasured memory that kind nurse gave me!" says Dale. "I am so grateful to her and can’t ever repay her.”

According to Dale, the quality care his wife received at WWGH kept him strong in the days that led up to her passing. He felt Timm’s care especially went above and beyond the call of duty.

“Everybody deserves the best care possible,” says Timms. “Even if they are only here for a day, or on their last day, I want to make them feel comfortable.”

October 01, 2010 / Feature