One day a few months ago, a patient was brought into the emergency room at Coastal Carolina Hospital. He had suffered a heart attack while he and his wife were on vacation. The next morning, his condition had worsened. He was near death.
Nurse Lisa Baxter was on duty that day in the intensive care unit. Realizing the couple were far away from home, she made space at his bedside for his wife. She arranged the bed so she could see him. She lowered the bed rail so she could hold his hand. The unit has selective visiting times, but Baxter knew it was important for the patient and his wife to not be alone in his final hours.
She checked in on the couple frequently that day, offering comfort and assistance. The patient's children arrived later that day before he passed away.
For Baxter, it was just a routine day. For the family, it meant a whole lot more.
Baxter was given the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses on Thursday, a national honor for nurses who go beyond their duties to care for patients and their families. The story of the heart attack victim isn't unusual in Baxter's career. Rather, it's a story of how even the smallest gesture of kindness can bring comfort.
"It was the small things she did that meant so much to them," said Shelly Weilenman, chief nursing office at Coastal Carolina. "They were very touched. She does things like this all the time."
The family of Patrick Barnes started the DAISY Foundation after he died from an auto-immune disease in 1999. While he fought his illness, his family was struck by the compassion and kindness nurses showed them. Hospitals across the country now hand out DAISY Awards. Baxter received the first DAISY Award at Coastal Carolina. The hospital plans to give them out twice a year.
"Often we give out awards for service or academics," Weilenman said. "It's rare to get an award for compassion."
The hospital sets out forms for patients to nominate nurses for DAISY Awards. Baxter by far received the most for the inaugural award, Weilenman said. She was described as a "quiet, peaceful and giving person," "always ready to help anyone in need with a smile."
The 20-year nursing veteran was born and raised in Augusta, Ga. Her mother was a nurse, and Baxter thought it would be a fine profession to enter. She worked at a hospital in Augusta before moving to Hilton Head. She joined Coastal Carolina when it opened six years ago. She doesn't see what she does as out of the ordinary, just part of a job she loves.
"Every day I look forward to walking through those doors," she said.