As a nurse in Beaufort Memorial Hospital's oncology unit, Laura Hawkins has always done whatever she can to make her patients comfortable. But when a 31-year-old Marine, dying from esophageal cancer, confided he was afraid his young children would forget him, she was determined to do more.
"I can't imagine not being there for my daughter as she grows up," said Hawkins, the mother of a 7-year-old girl. "I wanted to do something to make him feel better."
The Bluffton resident found an online company that makes plush "Daddy Dolls" to help children of deployed soldiers cope with the stresses of separation. The 12-inch pillow features the image of the father dressed in uniform.
After obtaining a head-to-toe photo of her patient in fatigues, she collected donations from a half-dozen nurses on the ward to purchase the dolls for both his 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter.
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"We had all become very attached to this patient," Hawkins said. "It wasn't easy on any of us to see him struggling with the pain of not being there for his children."
Last week, Hawkins was honored with the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses, a national tribute bestowed to RNs who go beyond the call of duty.
"Nurses are unsung heroes," said Julie Schott, a department director and the nurse who oversees the DAISY Award program for Beaufort Memorial. "We get nominations on a continuous basis. When you read the stories you've got to have Kleenex in hand. It will bring tears to your eyes."
Anyone can nominate a nurse for the award, and in the past nominations have come from patients, their friends and families, as well as fellow workers. Fifth floor clinical manager Nancy Fu submitted the form that detailed what Hawkins had done for her patient and his family.
"It not only brought comfort to the children," she wrote, "but also to the patient, knowing that they had a doll with daddy's picture to hold when he couldn't hold them."
The patient gave his children the dolls just days before he died.
"Laura is one of those nurses who really loves her job," said Dot Rucker, Hawkins' director. "She is an outstanding nurse who believes in going the extra mile to ensure her patients are getting exceptional care."