Former Alta Bates Summit Nurse Reflects On Seeing Things Through New Eyes

Posted on May 5, 2017

Bob and Pat Gardner

Pat Gardner thought she knew what it felt like to be a patient, lying in a hospital bed with a serious or even life-threatening illness.  In her 50 years as a nurse, she had provided compassionate care to thousands of patients, and attentive support to their families. She was proud of her work and always gave it her best.

But it wasn’t until her husband was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, and endured months of chemotherapy, numerous trips to the emergency department and five hospitalizations, that she realized just how crucial the medical and other staff were to her husband’s care and to her ability to support him during this ordeal.

“No letter or survey could ever express my gratitude for the care we received throughout Bob’s illness,” says Pat, who, sadly, lost her husband to his disease this past January. “Until I went through it myself, I didn’t have a true understanding of how it felt to be on the other side.”

Pat, who spent 43 years with the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center before retiring in 2014, supported her husband throughout his care at the Summit campus and at the Herrick campus (Alta Bates Summit’s Comprehensive Cancer Center), where he received chemotherapy infusions. She was equally in awe of the care they both received during his 13 months of treatment.

“Our gratitude was indescribable,” Pat reflected. “The medical care was top-notch, as I expected it would be. But it was all the other care and support we received that so amazed me – from the hospital and cancer center to the social workers and palliative care staff.  Everyone was so attentive to our every need – no matter how small.  Each time we showed up at the emergency department – sometimes at 3 or 4 in the morning – they went the extra mile to not only take care of his medical needs but to make sure he was comfortable.”

As a case in point, Pat mentions the care they received at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.  “There wasn’t a need that they hadn’t thought of,” she says.  “They doted on Bob, and all their patients, making sure they had warming blankets and anything else to make their stay less stressful.

“And the staff took everything off my shoulders.  There were navigating nurses, schedulers, financial counselors – you name it.  I still recall a nurse case manager just telling me to ‘relax and let go.’  They remembered your name at the front desk, every time you walked in the door.

“I always thought I did a good job as a nurse,” Pat says.  “I only hope that I made other patients and their families feel the way my husband and I felt when we found ourselves in their shoes.”

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