Someone to watch over me: Guardian Angels ease impact of hospitalization

Nothing eases the burden of hospitalization like someone who cares.


That is why McLaren Port Huron, through the McLaren Port Huron Foundation, has chosen to recognize employees who have gone above and beyond for patients through the Guardian Angel program.

Patients who nominate a Guardian Angel are encouraged to share their stories, telling everyone what impressed them most about the staff member.

Once a nomination is received, a secret award ceremony is planned to honor the employee. The "angel" is given a copy of the nomination as a keepsake and the team works hard to make the presentation memorable. Employees are later recognized in the employee newsletter and the foundation's annual report.

"This is one of my favorite parts of my job," says Amy Smith of the McLaren Port Huron Foundation. I'm glad to see such good-hearted and grateful people, and it's good to know our employees are doing great work."

Recently, one family nominated 11 people for their outstanding efforts during a very difficult time. Jeff VanDeusen and his family were traversing one of the most challenging times of their lives when they met their angels.

VanDeusen's mother and father had suddenly fallen ill, each fighting a different battle. They both ended up being admitted to McLaren Port Huron, though they were receiving treatment on different floors. Unfortunately, Jerry and Joan both took a turn for the worse. McLaren staff, including case manager Christine Sova, worked quickly to bring the couple to the same room. A day later, Jerry died peacefully, with his family and wife beside him. A few days later, Joan also succumbed to her illness.

"The people we spent hours with and with whom we could talk about anything, confess anything and ask anything – were the nurses. They did not just tend to mom’s and dad's medical issues, they were patient, deeply respectful, and unfailingly kind and gentle; and not just to mom and dad, but to us, as well. And if we stumbled or were heading to a dangerous decision, they counseled us and got us back on track. They listened, sometimes needing to discern a medical nuance, or just because we needed someone to hear us," VanDeusen says.

"Throughout all that time, we were under the care and guidance of some very remarkable angels."

Losing both of his parents within a few days of each other was difficult for VanDeusen, but the guidance and care he received from the McLaren staff made the difference, he says.

"The attention and care that we received were remarkable. The kindness felt exceptional and essential. I can't imagine what a Port Huron McLaren staff like Terri King Tews, Jourdan Mills, Bonnie DePalma, and Tim Nemechek receive Guardian Angel awards for going above and beyond to care for patients.nightmare this all would have been without the angels," he says. "How unusual to go through losing people you love, yet the overwhelming feeling was gratitude for the constant compassion and kindness that relentlessly surrounded us."

As a token of his gratitude, VanDeusen also made a financial contribution to the hospital. He says it was easy because the opportunity to donate was a part of the Guardian Angel information received from the hospital.

"For me, it was also symbolic to honor the recognition," he says. "I was glad that it was part of the package. I was also very gratified to see the promotion McLaren does to recognize the angels, including sharing the awards on Facebook."

Donations made through the Guardian Angels program support programs and projects throughout the hospital that make an impact on patient care.

Christie Sansom, RN, MSN, chief nursing officer at McLaren Port Huron, appreciates the opportunity to recognize those who work hard day in and day out to care for patients.

"The Guardian Angel program helps recognize our outstanding caregivers and lets them know they are appreciated," Sansom says.

A record 130 Guardian Angel nominations were received last year, including a whole floor of staff members. Most staff members are surprised by the award because they feel they are simply doing their job.

But Smith says the recognition of a job well done is beneficial for everyone. The act of kindness boosts their moods and boosts morale all around.

For more information on the Guardian Angel program, visit or call 810-989-3776.


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