Accepting Gratitude with Dignity

Kyle Fowler, R.N.

Some patient connections stick with you for life. Kyle Fowler, R.N., remembers a patient he cared for while serving as a transport liaison/Neuro-Trauma-ICU nurse at Brooke Army Medical Center.

Kyle, now clinical care manager of Unit 1800 at NorthBay Medical Center, picked up a patient from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center who was less than 24 hours out from an injury in Afghanistan. The patient, a 19-year-old Marine, was in severely critical condition. “I made a special connection with this young man, but realized that he would ultimately succumb to his injuries,” Kyle said. “I was also in frequent contact with his family and developed a rapport with his mother.”

After the Marine died, his mother contacted Kyle with a special request. Would he be a pallbearer at the young man’s funeral? Kyle was taken aback.

“I was honored that she asked me but, to be honest, I declined,” Kyle explained. “I was emotionally overcome with deep sadness and remorse and realized I could not remain stoic as a pallbearer and my emotions would pour out and this would be unacceptable at a Marine funeral.”

A couple of years passed, and the mother again reached out to Kyle. “She wanted to thank me again for the care I’d given her son. She said she had been thinking about me all this time, and explained that she wished I would have come to the funeral because she wanted to meet me and thank me in person.”

Kyle said he learned an important lesson that day. “That young man holds a special place in my heart and continues to remind me daily of the brevity of life,” he recalled. “His mother was most thankful for the comfort that I gave him, up to his death. As health care providers, we don’t see what we do as amazing but it’s important for us to accept the thanks people may want to give us. These things can have a deep impact on families and patients, and our acceptance of their thanks is paramount in the healing and grieving process.”

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