“It is an unfortunate fact that for some people the intensive care unit is where they will spend their last days,” says Brenda Roach, whose mother, Hope Jones, passed away in Franciscan Health Dyer’s ICU in January.
Roach feels certain that God places angels in the ICU, and counts Amy Mirowski as the angel who especially blessed Roach’s mother and her family. “Amy exemplified God’s grace and mercy," Roach said. "She eased our mother’s fear and pain as well as our own.”
Mirowski recalled how scared and quiet Jones was when she met her in the ICU.
Drawing inspiration from “Patch Adams,” a movie based on the true story of a doctor who incorporated joy and laughter into every treatment plan, Mirowski worked hard to make Jones laugh. Mirowski knew she’d made progress when Jones gleefully squirted her with a saline flush two days after surgery when Mirowski’s back was turned.
Mirowski and Jones lightened up the sober setting of the ICU with saline fights and straw fights during Jones’ time in the ICU. “I love to make people feel better by making them laugh, especially when it involves quirky things,” says Mirowski, who was chosen a top nurse in the Region by peer review.
Joy is something Mirowski strives to bring into the ICU in her interactions with patients and their families. It’s a mission that began some 30 years ago when Mirowski’s mother-in-law at the time — who still remains a friend even after Mirowski’s divorce from her first husband — talked Mirowski into switching from pharmacy school to nursing school.
Mirowski received her associate’s degree in nursing from South Suburban College in South Holland in 1993 and her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of St. Francis in Joliet in 1995. Her experience included working in a pediatrician’s office, agency work, and critical care transport before she became an ICU nurse.
Mirowski said nursing is harder than she anticipated it would be.
“Looking back, I didn’t know what to expect," she said. "The patients are sicker and older, and the cases are more complicated, than I thought they would be.”
Caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic has proved especially challenging and heartbreaking. The speed at which the illness spreads and the severity of many of the cases shocked Mirowski, and the required isolation of patients from their loved ones deeply saddens her.
“I’ve never seen anything like COVID-19 that spreads so fast and affected so many,” she said. “It’s eye-opening how life can change in a minute. It makes you consider what’s important and puts priorities in perspective.”
Mirowski’s biggest priorities are her husband, Dan, and their three grown children, Jacob, Nicole and Megan.
Though nursing brings challenges and grief, Mirowski added: “It’s also more rewarding than I thought it would be. The impact that you have on someone’s life is fulfilling and rewarding. It doesn’t get any better than having patients who come back to say a heartfelt thank you, who tell you that they’ll always remember you.”
She cherishes all the patients who’ve been in her care.
Roach, her sisters Karen Wagster and Candy Anderson, and all of Jones’s loved ones are grateful to Mirowski for helping to make Jones’s passing peaceful.
“It’s rare that one comes across someone so loving, compassionate and thoughtful who can brighten up an entire day with a flush syringe,” Wagster said.
“It was Amy’s personal connection with my mom as well as her ability to bring out a playfulness and smile even toward the end that set Amy apart from the other wonderful people who cared for my mom,” added Anderson, a nurse for almost 28 years, the last 20 at Franciscan Hammond. “Our mom may have earned her wings but Amy helped to give her the peace and courage to be able to fly. Our family will be forever grateful to Amy.”
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