Bringing Love and Music to a Cardiac Patient

OR Musical
Photo by David Christopher

Left to right: Mary Sejda, RN, assistant director of perioperative services; Marie Fisher, anesthesiology technician; and Mark Chaney, MD, director of cardiac anesthesia.

By Ankur Thakkar

Evelyn Jackson had only been gone five minutes. But when she returned to her husband’s hospital room, he was gone, wheeled into surgery. Jackson hadn’t gotten the chance to wish him well.

Marie Fisher, an anesthesiology technician, noticed Jackson standing outside of the operating room corridor, trembling. When Jackson told Fisher her husband was Claude Hughes, Fisher realized she had just wheeled him into the operating room, where he would receive a new HeartMate® II left ventricular assist device.

Normal protocol is to hold surgery until the family sees the patient, but no one had been informed of Hughes’ wife. Fisher immediately found the nearest phone and called the operating room. She was told Hughes was just moments away from getting anesthesia. It was impossible to see him.  

Still, Fisher was determined. “I couldn’t take no for an answer,” she said. “I didn’t know this woman, but I knew I needed to help her.”

Fisher explained the situation to Mary Sejda, RN, assistant director of perioperative services, and to Mark Chaney, MD, director of cardiac anesthesia. Even though they would be bending the rules, both agreed that Jackson had to see her husband. He was undergoing serious surgery. It was the right thing to do.

After fitting Jackson with a clean room suit, face mask and surgical cap, Fisher rushed Jackson to the twisting OR corridor. The two women hurried past operating rooms, medication carts, IV stations, racks of surgical gowns and masks until they reached room 16.

Hughes was beginning to fall asleep, but his eyes lit up and a big smile spread across his face when he saw his wife. Jackson bent down and kissed his lips. She said, “Baby, you’re going to be born again.”

Then, to the surprise of the medical staff, Jackson began to sing: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine; you make me happy, when skies are gray.”

Suddenly Fisher, Chaney, and the rest of the operating room joined her: “You’ll never know dear, how much I love you; please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Later, after the surgery, Hughes said that seeing his wife before his surgery made all the difference. His surgery was a success.

For demonstrating such thoughtful patient advocacy, Sejda presented Fisher with a certificate of recognition that morning and Fisher was honored with a Service Hero Award in July.

“Marie went above and beyond her day-to-day responsibilities and did not stop until she brought the wife and husband together,” Sejda said.

“I would want it done for me,” Fisher said of her efforts. “In the waiting room I told Evelyn that she had nothing to worry about. We do this every day.”