Nurses struggle to cope with loss of colleague
By DONNA VICKROY Sun-Times Media July 20, 2012 5:05PM
Updated: August 23, 2012 10:33AM
She was the kind of nurse who would wheel a terminally ill teenager outside the hospital simply because he wanted a change of scenery.
She was the kind of colleague who voluntarily went last in the daily patient selection process, letting her fellow RNs choose their day’s work before she did.
And she was the kind of human being who would clear her schedule one day so she could visit nursing homes with a patient who had no one else to accompany her.
“She was a beautiful person, inside and out,” said Sonya DuCharme, a registered nurse who worked with Heidi Roseen of Lockport at Christ Medical Center for many years. “She was full of energy, never negative. She was an inspiration to us all.”
Roseen, 51, was killed July 8 when she was hit by an alleged drunken driver while on her way to work from her home in Lockport.
A graduate of Sandburg High School, Roseen was the wife of Thomas Roseen, the mother of Gretchen, Audrey and A.J., and a grandmother of two.
She also was the medical caregiver for countless patients who passed through the Oak Lawn hospital’s Surgical Neuro Intensive Care unit.
Roseen spent her entire nursing career at Christ. For the nurses and staff who worked alongside her, the untimely death has been crushing.
Sitting in a break room, a wall of sympathy cards behind them, five of those staffers remembered their colleague with tears and smiles.
“Every department in this hospital acknowledged her (by sending a card),” said Betty Mushynski, registered nurse and manager of clinical operations. “We were a part of her family. That’s why this is so hard. We’re all very close in this department.”
Joyce Emerson, registered nurse and assistant clinical manager, worked with Roseen for 18 years.
“She would come up to me and tell me that I was doing a good job. Then I’d talk to other people and find out she did the same for them. She quietly encouraged everyone,” Emerson said.
She had a comforting, non-threatening way of communicating with distraught patients and their family members, Mushynski said.
“She was very good with those patients whose families struggled to make a decision. She was good with helping people who were very unsettled,” Mushynski said.
The medical professionals who work in the unit are accustomed to treating people whose paths intersect with the most unfortunate of events. The patients often are young and healthy before they collide with sudden and often catastrophic events. The patients they treat are in critical condition, often the victims of plans gone awry.
“It’s ironic that Heidi went in a way that we see every day,” Mushynski said.
Roseen was eastbound on 95th Street early that Sunday morning when 25-year-old Matthew Senica ran a red light on LaGrange Road, his pickup truck smashing into her sport utility vehicle, police said. Shortly after, Roseen was pronounced dead at Christ.
Senica, who has a record that includes charges of drug abuse and battery dating to 2003, has been charged with felony aggravated DUI, police said. He suffered minor injuries in the crash, police said.
Roseen, who always wore a skirt to work, was a religious person, Mushynski said.
A member of Ashburn Baptist Church, Roseen quietly encouraged people to take care of themselves spiritually. She often read Bible passages to her patients.
Mushynski said they found an English and an Arabic Bible in her locker. Days before she died, she was asking around for a copy of a Spanish Bible.
Not only did she respect the fragility of life, she seemed to sense what each patient needed, the nurses said.
On the day before she died, registered nurse Kimberly Looney recalled, Roseen took a young, terminally ill man outside to see the fountain and get some fresh air.
“She knew he needed a change of scenery,” she said.
Another time, the nature-loving Roseen had a long-term patient’s bed turned to face the window so he could watch the snow fall.
For many, Roseen’s selflessness stands out. Mushynski said that on her most recent self-evaluation, Roseen wrote that she needed to pray more, talk less and thank people more.
Though saddened by the loss of their longtime friend and colleague, the nurses said they’ll do what they always do to get them through difficult times — they’ll huddle together and support each other.
“This is a very stressful unit to work in. So we always lean on each other,” registered nurse Carol Watters said.
The collective display of strength will help them prevail as individuals and as a unit, she said.
“But it’s such a loss, for our unit, for the hospital, for the patients,” she said.