Patients, family members, friends and co-workers – those who have experienced it never forget the date. What began as a typical Tuesday morning became the day that changed everything – July 29, 2014 – for Kayla Patchett, RN, her husband, Ben Grice, and their 3-year-old daughter.
“I was in the waiting room for three hours while they worked to get him in a stable condition,” Kayla recalls of the anxiety, fear and all-encompassing worry that took over while she could only wait helplessly. She walked into his ICU room at the Alexander Burn Center at Hillcrest Medical Center and met the reality of seeing her husband completely wrapped in gauze dressings. The refinery explosion in Coffeyville, Kansas that brought Kayla to Hillcrest for the very first time forever changed her personally and brings her back today professionally.
“I went from ‘panic wife mode’ to ‘panic nurse mode,’” Kayla adds. “I was fresh out of LPN school. I knew very little of what was going on, but there was a nurse, Lindsay Tincup, RN, who looked at me in that moment. She walked me through everything that was going to happen that day and in the future. She made it easier to adjust to what was happening.”
Over the course of the next month, Kayla stayed by her husband throughout his treatment and recovery. She counted to 10 with him as he winced in immense pain enduring dressing changes. She slept upright in a chair next to his bed every night she could. She learned the routine for the day and the milestones to achieve. “I was his rock,” Kayla simply states.
Kayla also learned how to be a burn nurse, through the firsthand care she provided her husband while watching and learning from his nurses. “A bond grew,” she shares. “We had the support and sympathy from the nurses. We were a family. It was miraculous.”
She knew what her husband needed to do in order to heal and go home, but she also knew what her daughter needed to be ready for that day. “I wrapped up a teddy bear in gauze and covered it just like Ben was covered in gauze,” Kayla explains. “I told my daughter, ‘Don’t be surprised that daddy is wrapped up like your teddy bear.’ Then as my husband would get better and have part of his dressings removed, I would remove them from the bear.”
One month after the explosion, Ben returned home to the open arms of his daughter, who knew exactly what to expect. In that moment, Kayla was no longer a new LPN out of school; she was an LPN who wanted to become an RN and go back to the Alexander Burn Center. “I knew exactly where I wanted to work,” Kayla says. “The next thing I knew I’m here.”
It wasn’t until Kayla returned to the Alexander Burn Center that she knew why burn care was the path for her professionally. “The wife of one of our patients had that exact same look,” she recalls of walking into a new patient’s room. “I know that look. That’s the look I had. I didn’t know how to deal with the emotions. I didn’t know what to do. I grabbed her hand and took her through the same exact steps Lindsay took with me. I saw the look of comfort on her face as she gave me a hug.”
They are unpredictable, fragile and life-jarring moments. Nothing prepares anyone for those first agonizing hours, days or weeks on a burn floor. Nothing other than living through it and coming through with the support of physicians, nurses and staff who care for patients and their families in those moments every day. This is Kayla’s mission as a nurse at Hillcrest – to recognize that look and be there for families who don’t know where to turn or what to ask. “We are a family here,” she says of the burn unit. “Everyone puts in their all for the patients. I absolutely love my job.”
Are you interested in joining our team and changing lives for the better, together? Hillcrest Medical Center has opportunities for RNs in MSICU. Click here to learn more and apply online.