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Luau, leis and knee surgery

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Submitted by Susan Miller
Customer Relations Representative
Novant Health Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital

Our patient had planned a trip with her husband to Hawaii in the spring, but she developed an infection in her knee and wound up in the total joint unit of Novant Health Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital for a knee replacement. We heard this story in our patient relations department; we knew she was very upset to have missed the trip that she had been looking forward to.

After she had her surgery, we had the idea – let’s bring Hawaii to her! I went to the party store and bought grass skirts, leis (Hawaiian flower necklaces), and cutouts and pictures of Hawaii.

We wanted it to be a surprise so we waited until she had gone to a class about what to expect when you get home after having a total knee replacement. While she was gone, we decorated her room. We put a Hawaii collage on the wall and laid out souvenirs and tanning lotion. We dressed in our grass skirts, leis, sunglasses and flip-flops and put flowers in our hair. We also put on a CD with Hawaiian music.

When our patient left her meeting and was being rolled down the hall to her room, we turned up the music. She turned to her husband and said, “I must be insane, because I can hear Hawaiian music. I must have been more upset about this trip than I thought.” Her husband had also been kept in the dark about the surprise.

When she saw what we had done, she broke down and cried. “These aren’t sad tears,” she told us. “I’m just so happy that you all took it to heart how upset I was about missing this trip.” That night for dinner, Debra Gonzales, our cafeteria manager, had the staff prepare a Hawaiian dinner – chicken kabobs, pineapple and a special dessert.

The Hawaiian celebration went on for a couple of days before our patient was discharged. Everyone got into the act – all the nurses on day and night shifts, CNAs and even the dietary folks wore leis and flowers in their hair. The nurses and the staff enjoyed it as much as our patient did.

Staff members go Hawaiian for a patient who spent her “vacation” in the hospital. (L-R) Susan Miller, Amy Robinson, Kenya Harris and Meredith Hall

“The staff loved it,” Kelli Sadler-Bell, RN, BSN, the nurse manager for the total joint unit, told me. “This was a chance to step back and do something fun that also meant a lot to one of our patients. This is what we like to do: to build relationships and make connections with our patients.”

We’ve had bridal showers here, even a wedding for a patient. Another lady fell at the airport on her way to a wedding and wound up in the hospital. We Skyped the wedding and a staff member, dressed in a tux, escorted her to a chair to watch.

We’ve had a lot of patients tell us, “If I had to go to the hospital somewhere, I’m glad it was here.”