In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

June 4, 2015

Nurse, Healer, Inspiration Honored in Special Karis Award Ceremony

By In the Loop

Cindy Karls is surrounded by colleagues Wendy Moore, Gail Trapp, Sister Tierney Trueman, Patricia Heim-Penokie and Lindsey Burr.

Cindy Karls loved being a nurse and personified "the role of healer" for 26 years — six of them while a patient herself. Cindy was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, but she never let her "cancer journey," as she called it, change the way she lived. "Work represented doing what she loved to do," her supervisor, Wendy Moore, tells us. And even though she was "facing her own mortality," Cindy was "mindful and present" as long as her body allowed, and "an inspiration" to her peers and patients, Moore says.

Cindy's caring and compassion were recognized with a Karis Award from the Mayo Clinic Values Council shortly before her passing in April. The award honors Mayo staff who "live out the Mayo Clinic Values in an extraordinary way," according to the program's website. "It's a prestigious award," with "very high selection standards," says Sister Tierney Trueman, coordinator of the Mayo Clinic Values Council and a member of the Karis Award selection committee.

CindyKarls500Cindy's colleagues had planned to present her with the award during a surprise ceremony at work. But Cindy's health deteriorated, and she had to stop working before the presentation could be made. Leaving her job was a difficult decision, but one Cindy's colleagues supported her through — just as they'd supported her throughout her illness. The six nurses on her unit "are a family," Moore says, and Cindy's "journey became our journey." The group rejoiced together on good days and cried together on the bad ones. Through it all, they witnessed in Cindy "the strength of the human spirit" and an "inspiration on how to live your life well."

That's part of what they celebrated when they presented Cindy with the Karis Award at a special ceremony at her home on April 21 — just five days before she passed away. Moore tell us "it was heartbreaking" but important for the team to give their beloved colleague "the professional recognition she deserved" and also to recognize "her gifts to her patients and her gifts to Mayo Clinic."

The presentation was "a very powerful and emotional event," according to Cindy's husband, Patrick. In addition to an award certificate, Cindy was given three Karis pins — one for herself, and one each for her son, Ben, and daughter, Emma. Moore says the extra pins are "keepsake tokens" to remind Cindy's children of their mother's "career in nursing and how much her service to her patients meant." Patrick says Cindy "knew exactly what was going on" during the ceremony, and receiving the award "was very special to her." He called the award "a reward" for the dedication Cindy put into "taking care of people, which is what she always enjoyed doing."

Soon, Cindy's colleagues will spend an evening painting together. It's something they'd planned on doing before Cindy passed away, and she'd chosen their subject — flowers — just a week before her death. Moore says the group has decided to frame the paintings and hang them in their work area as a tribute to one who is gone, but will never be forgotten.

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Tags: Cindy Karls, Employee Stories, Karis Award, Mayo Clinic Values Council, Sister Tierney Trueman

Having had Cindy as my best friend for over 25 years was a total inspritation to me. Like the article said she taught me so much over the years. This was deffinately her reward for more than a job well done, but for all the commitment and passion that she gave to the nursing profession. I am very proud to call her my best friend and wish that many more people could have known her the way that I knew her.

Jean Ebert

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