Lifestyle & Human Interest

Nurses Use Own Money to Present Gifts to Grieving Families Who Recently Lost Loved Ones


Day and night, nurses who work in intensive care units handle the delicate and often stressful moments of caring for patients in their darkest hours.

There is no question that these nurses are highly skilled, hardworking, and determined to help families walk the painful and often confusing road of intense hospitalization.

At TriHealth Bethesda North Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, a team of critical care nurses has gone above and beyond their job description to bring comfort to families grieving the loss of a loved one.

Caring for patients with traumatizing and life-threatening injuries takes its toll on the nursing staff, and the Bethesda nurses know it takes a toll on the families who are involved, too.

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“We do things that people wouldn’t even imagine,” Bethesda North Hospital nurse Jennifer Conger told WKRC.

The team saw the heartache that families with loved ones in critical care endure, and decided to use a compassionate, thoughtful approach to help them feel a sense of comfort after a loved one’s death.

The ICU nurses present a stuffed Build-a-Bear to grieving families, bears the nurses built and purchased with their own time and money.

Before the nurses give the bear away, there is one final step to personalizing the gift.

When the nurses feel that death is imminent, they record the heartbeat of the patient and embed the recording into the bear’s paw as a memory for the family.

Conger feels that part of her job in caring for the patient is to prepare families for the reality that their loved one will not be coming home.

“Sometimes, what everything we do for a patient isn’t necessarily so that they can come home, but so that the family can be OK with what’s actually going to happen,” Conger said.

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When the family receives a bear, they also receive the gift of being able to hear their loved one’s heart, long after the person is gone.

“Deepest of Sympathy to you and yours during this difficult time,” the note attached to each bear reads.

“When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure. Please accept this treasure from our hearts to yours.”

Stacy Kelly, the director for critical care, hopes the thoughtful, loving gesture will help people make it through the worst of days.

“For me, the bear represents love, hope and compassion and shines a bright light on an otherwise very dark day,” Kelly said.

Nurse Appreciation Week is May 6-12 this year. Thank you to all the nurses who help families walk through some of the hardest seasons of life.

Liftable, a section of the Western Journal, has reached out to TriHealth for comment but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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