Brittany Burnham was on a mission to find a Chicago-style hot dog in La Crosse, Wisconsin. "I called around but couldn't find anyplace making them," she says. So Burnham, a nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare, decided to try her hand at the Windy City classic. She researched recipes and stopped by a grocery store to get just the right fixings. Then she headed to work, where she prepped the perfect hot dog and delivered it to her patient, a man who was very ill but had a strong craving for a dog dragged through the garden.
"I didn't think twice about doing it," Burnham tells us. "It could have been his last meal ever. My thought was, "He wants it, let's get it for him.' To me, it was a no-brainer."
But to the man and his family, it was something more. Call it an all-hearter. "That small gesture showed how we as humans should treat each other in our hardest times," Aldena Pardini, the patient's daughter, tells us. The special meal — and the care behind it — meant so much to Aldena that she nominated Burnham for a DAISY Award, which honors "the super-human work nurses do for patients and families every day."
Burnham tells us she was surprised to receive an award for what she calls a "simple gesture." The recognition reminded her of just how much those gestures can mean. "We often underestimate the impact small things can have on patients," she says.
Burnham experienced that impact firsthand when she was a high school student. Her grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer, and Burnham visited him often during his frequent hospitalizations. "The doctors and nurses took great care of him," Burnham tells us. She "came to 'love and appreciate' the staff" and decided then that she wanted to become a nurse and have that same impact on other families, reports the La Crosse Tribune.
Mission accomplished, according to Aldena. "Brittany will always be remembered by us and in our hearts forever," she says. Her father, who passed away two weeks after Burnham's special delivery, "wanted me to make sure I thanked her," Aldena says. Nominating Burnham for the DAISY Award was one way to do that.
But Aldena's father himself provided the real reward. "He told me the hot dog was the best thing he'd ever tasted," Burnham says. Nursing can be "heartbreaking," she tells the Tribune, but "the satisfaction that comes with helping people who are sick or families who are coping — going home with that feeling is indescribable."
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