The staff of Unit 2100 ICU is used to taking care of vulnerable patients as they recover from surgery. But a patient they don’t typically see is a 64-year-old woman named Renee with Down’s Syndrome and a ready laugh. This unusual patient’s charming personality and enthusiastic giggles captured the hearts of her caretakers, who all loved to watch over her and went far beyond their job descriptions in doing so.
Renee landed in Unit 2100 after undergoing various treatments for her liver and lung problems (most Unit 2100 patients are recovering from open-heart surgery). Because of her medical condition, her extraordinarily long life as a Down’s Syndrome patient, and her spunky personality, she was out of the ordinary, and the staff got “so attached to her,” says unit supervisor Belle McCool.
Renee had the mental capacity of a six-year-old and couldn’t fully understand her health problems. To calm her fear and anxiety, the staff entertained her with crayons and coloring books and gave her a crown to wear. A male night nurse painted her fingernails, and the entire staff showered her with her favorite treat, Mountain Dew. Renee would giggle and smack her lips in delight.
“You couldn’t help being in a good mood,” says Larissa Layne, one of her caretakers. “She had no cares in the world. She was just a sweetheart.”
The staff of Unit 2100 became a sort of family for Renee, who had no family of her own and only a few visitors from the group home where she had previously lived. Although the staff was crushed when Renee was triaged out of Unit 2100 and passed away soon after, they will never forget her joyful spirit, and their supervisor will never forget the ways they showed compassion to a vulnerable patient. “It’s neat to watch them do things other than technical, medical things,” Belle says. “They delighted in taking care of her.”