Hospices are often perceived as a very sad place to be in. End-of-life care really didn’t have much to it other than plain hospital walls, routine check-ups, and every best effort to make a dying man’s last few days on this earth to be as comfortable as possible.
However, one nurse who worked in hospice care at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan didn’t think that it should be this way.
Robert Olson has always been a hardworking man, only retiring when he reached the age of 85. He was in prime health then, until he developed breathing issues that had him fighting for his life.
He was taken to Bronson Hospital where he was placed in hospice care, and his family had a terrifying feeling that this time, their dad wasn’t coming home.
“He has heart problems but because of his age, they can’t put a pacemaker in,” Roberta Lytle, Robert’s daughter, told WMMT.
“He had an episode at the house, and he couldn’t breathe. So they took him to Bronson Hospital. He was there about a week. We did not think he was coming home this time.”
Brenda Buurstra was one of the nurses who worked in that hospice care. She started to look after Robert and soon, a special bond was forged between the two.
Roberta hoped to spend the last days of his father’s life beside him. One day, she arranged to visit her dad to check on him. But that fateful day led her to discover that her dad’s nurse wasn’t caring for him like other regular nurses do – she was doing more.
Roberta said that it became tough for her dad to speak even just a few words at a time. But his wonderful nurse didn’t only get him to speak – he also got him to sing.
“We were watching a show on Pat Boone, and he told the nurse ‘I don’t like him, but I like a song that his daughter sings.’ And this lady just starts singing. And I’m just blown away. Because the woman’s got a voice.”, Roberta said of Brenda.
“He said, ‘My favorite song is “You Light Up My Life”.’ And I just started singing it,” Brenda told WMMT.
The nurse didn’t know all the words to the song, so she decided to print out the lyrics and promised to be back the next day to sing some more.
Sure enough, Brenda fulfilled that promise. She shared:
“He was beaming. Even through his little venting mask he was wearing, his eyes lit up. His whole countenance changed, and he had a big smile. You could tell that song lit him up. Literally ‘You Light Up My Life,’ that song really just lit him up. You could tell it touched his heart.”
Roberta took a video of the heartwarming moment and posted it on YouTube. She said:
“If you listen to the video, you can hear him trying to sing at the very end. But it changed him. It was like he knew he was going to go home.”
Miraculously, just a week later, Robert regained enough strength to be discharged from the hospital.
Brenda said that she’s been singing to patients for 14 years already, but it was the first time that she got “caught”. For her, being a nurse is more than just fulfilling patients’ medical needs: “Not just taking care of the illness in a patient; to touch them. To touch their life. To touch their heart.”
“To make that awful hospital stay they’re going through just a little bit better, a little bit brighter,” Brenda added. “I wanted to be on a team of positive people, and that’s what we have here at Bronson. I’m not the only nurse who goes above and beyond at Bronson. This is what we do every day.”
Sadly, a few months after being sent home, Robert passed away on New Year’s Eve.
Brenda was a nurse with a good heart who truly loved her job, and it completely showed. Thanks to her for lighting up Robert’s life, and for bringing him joy during the last days of his life.
Watch the emotional video below.
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