December 26, 2006
By REGINE LABOSSIERE, Courant Staff Writer
Wearing a red Santa hat and armed with gifts, nurse Sharon Gauthier entered an apartment building on Washington Street in Hartford to give Christmas cheer to a patient.
"This is the perfect lady to give a gift to," said Gauthier, a community nurse with VNA Health Care, the oldest home care agency in Connecticut. She was visiting Evelyn Carrillo, who suffered her second stroke a few weeks ago at age 48.
Christmas is a holiday usually spent with family members and friends, but nursing knows no holiday and Christmas is no exception. VNA nurses visited several of their patients Monday. In some cases, the nurse is the only person a patient sees any day.
Carrillo's cousin had stopped by her apartment earlier in the day to braid her hair because her left side is slightly paralyzed due to the strokes. She also received phone calls from her three adult children who live in Florida, but Gauthier, who has known Carrillo for only a few weeks, brought the presents.
"Evelyn, what are you crying about?" Gauthier asked, as she opened the gift bag to reveal a gift card and a pink blanket. "That's why we're here. We're here to help each other, right?"
"I'm happy, I'm happy," Carrillo said between tears. "I have nobody."
"You have somebody," Gauthier replied.
Carrillo said that having a visiting nurse has changed her life.
"It's been so hard," she explained. "She came in like a doll. She came in when I really needed her. ... It makes me feel more secure than I did [before]."
Carrillo suffered strokes because of diabetes and undiagnosed hypertension, Gauthier said, so Gauthier visits Carrillo twice a week to help her manage her diabetes. If Carrillo isn't feeling well, Gauthier ensures that Carrillo gets the medical care she needs as quickly as possible.
"This job is all about connections," Gauthier said. "The system is so hard to get through."
But the job is also about the connection made between nurse and patient. Gauthier's visits mean more to Carrillo than medical assistance.
"Sometimes I have all these feelings - the pain and that I can't do anything myself," Carrillo said, adding that she can talk to Gauthier about how she feels.
Gauthier, who had a career in hospitals before becoming a community nurse two years ago, explained that her work is helping patients who "have limited resources, limited knowledge, language barriers."
Her patients are usually older than 60, although there are a few exceptions, including Carrillo and a 55-year-old woman whom she visited earlier in the day. After Carrillo, Gauthier went to see a new patient, an 88-year-old woman from Puerto Rico with heart problems. And then, Gauthier said, she was returning to her Windsor home to spend time with her husband and two adult children.
"Ninety-nine percent of the people are so appreciative of anything you give to them," she said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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