PICU employees establish leadership award to memorialize longtime nurse
By Jen Hospodor
Dr. Elizabeth Christ never paid much attention to the series of award plaques hanging on a wall outside her office in the Department of Pediatrics until her dear friend and colleague passed away.
That friend, Elaine Seid, a longtime nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at Batson Children’s Hospital, died from multiple myeloma in March 2012.
“Elaine epitomized what it is we have lost a little bit of – the small, kind of family atmosphere, the feeling that everyone was in it together,” said Christ, associate professor of pediatrics and medical director of the PICU. “The unit is just too big for that now. We’re still a team, but less of a family.”
To honor the family member they lost, Christ and her PICU colleagues created and recently presented the Elaine L. Seid Pediatric Critical Care Leadership Award to Ami Risher, a respiratory therapist in the PICU.
“For my coworkers to look at me as a compassionate leader meant the world to me,” said Risher, a member of the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) team. “I am honored to be the first recipient.”
Christ, whose idea for the award was inspired by those plaques outside her office, could not be more enthused about Risher receiving the award. Risher married fellow ECMO team member, David Risher, last year. The two postponed their honeymoon so ECMO services would not be compromised by short-staffing.
Their decision mirrors the tireless work ethic Seid brought to her daily work, Christ said.
“They’re part of a small team that is very dedicated to their jobs. It’s very much in the spirit of Elaine.”
Among friends and family, dedicated is but one word used to describe that spirit. There are also optimistic, compassionate, loving and generous.
Seid’s generosity touched everyone she met, Christ said. She would often buy clothing and other items for her patients to make their sometimes long stays in the PICU more comfortable and would spend an equal amount of time taking care of patients’ families as well.
As for her coworkers, they benefited from her cooking – baked goods and her famous fried rice – as well as her optimism and calm under pressure. One of Seid’s fellow nurses, Jodee Newell, now a nurse practitioner in pediatric palliative medicine, said, “Whenever Elaine was in charge, I always knew that no matter what happened that day, everything was going to be okay.”
Christ and Cindi Cooper, a PICU nurse and close friend of Seid, marveled that she was never unhappy to be at work at a time when conditions were more challenging than they are now in the newly renovated, modern unit. They laughed about the one monitor that had to be shared among patients and having to forage for working telephones.
Seid rarely complained, they said. Even when she became sick, her complaints were more about what she couldn’t do for others.
It was around the holidays in 2003 when Seid confided to Cooper that she’d not had the energy to do her usual shopping for friends and family. Aside from the fatigue, she had been having some chest pain.
An X-ray revealed a spot on her rib. It took a few months to get the final diagnosis. Her battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow, lasted eight years.
Her “baby” brother, Dennis Seid, said throughout that time Seid continued to put others’ needs ahead of her own. He said the award named in her memory says as much about her as it says about her friends and colleagues at the hospital.
“Her friends and colleagues at UMC, in PICU, were like a family,” Dennis Seid said. “It was because of them that she became the nurse she was. While they may have been inspired by her, she was inspired by them as well.”
Risher was certainly inspired by her. After receiving the award, which offers funding for continuing education, she reminisced about working with Seid and wanting to emulate her.
“Elaine was one of those nurses that lit up the room and could command a hectic situation,” Risher said. “She showed love to all of her patients and would spoil the ones whose family couldn’t be there. She was a great nurse and an even more wonderful person.
“She had such a giving heart and a great sense of humor.”
Christ said like Seid, Risher treats patients and families like they’re her own.
“It’s just as important to take care of the family and to be a caring provider,” Christ said. “That’s what we want to honor in Elaine’s name.
“As our unit has become more complex, we focus more on assessment skills because we need everybody to function at a high level to be able to help our patients. But we don’t want to forget the heart.”