Medical University of South Carolina salutes its second nurse honored with the prestigious award
After learning the news that a young Charleston teenager’s chemotherapy treatments were not succeeding, registered nurse Cindy Stokes decided it was her personal responsibility to help the teen and his family find peace in a time of sorrow. Stokes’ painstaking and compassionate role in elevating her patient and his family above his diagnosis made her more than his nurse – it made her his friend. For the remarkable and unwavering support shown to this family in a time of great need, Stokes is one of just seven recipients nationwide to receive the 2011 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award.
For 20 years, Stokes has worked with children and teens battling cancer in the pediatric hematology oncology unit at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Her willingness to form a powerful connection with this particular family measured far beyond her day-to-day responsibilities as she provided them with the strength and comfort they needed to negotiate the physical and emotional pain accompanying the young man’s disease and its dire prognosis. Stokes is the second nurse in MUSC’s history to receive the award. The first was Mandy Larson in 2003.
“Cindy not only met this young man’s clinical needs, she made certain that she would make his remaining days on earth as pain-free and meaningful as humanly possible,” says Wendell Mobley, who directs Cherokee Uniforms’ charitable and scholarship programs. “She also became a steadfast source of information and support for his family and guided them through the fear and heartache they experienced as they lost their beloved son. To our judges, Cindy’s willingness to help this family find some happiness and closure during their darkest hour distinguishes her as a caring and compassionate nurse who is worthy of national recognition.”
When the family took a trip to Hawaii for a final vacation together, Stokes personally wrote a letter to the airline and successfully advocated for a flight that could accommodate the boy’s needs. While on vacation, the boy e-mailed Stokes and “skyped” the nursing staff while he was at the beach. Unfortunately, the boy took a turn for the worse upon his return and required hospice services. Since pediatric hospice services were unavailable, Stokes arranged a plan of care that met his unique pain needs, obtained his medications from a local pharmacy and delivered them personally to his home between her shifts at the hospital.
During his time in hospice, the boy and Stokes spoke openly about his condition and imminent death. He recognized the nurse as a friend and advocate and even invited her to join him and his friends in a “drum jam” – which she did. When the boy died, Stokes endured the loss with the family, assisted in the funeral planning and comforted the boy’s parents as they transitioned into a life without their son.
“Cindy possesses the highest level of clinical skills and care coordination but also the added gift of effectively communicating with those burdened by stressful and unpleasant situations,” says Andrea Coyle, a professional excellence coordinator at MUSC and Stokes’ nominator. In 2010, MUSC recognized Stokes with a DAISY (Diseases Attacking the Immune System) Award and as Nurse of the Year for her extraordinary acts of kindness towards this family.
The Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award is granted by Cherokee Uniforms as a way of recognizing the caring and highly competent work of nurses and other non-physician healthcare professionals who provide exceptional service, sacrifice and innovation while positively impacting others’ lives. This is the ninth year the nation’s leading designer and manufacturer of healthcare apparel has honored inspirational caregivers across the country.
As a Top National Winner, Stokes receives an all-expense-paid trip to a 2012 medical conference of her choice courtesy of Cherokee Uniforms; an annual membership to her preferred clinical association; a wardrobe featuring the best of Cherokee Uniforms and Footwear worth more than $1,000; a Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award trophy; a 14K gold-plated commemorative pin; a year’s subscription to Scrubs, the nation’s first lifestyle magazine for nurses; and a $500 donation in her name to the DAISY (Diseases Attacking the Immune System) Foundation.
Ultimately, it is getting to know her patients and their families that gives Stokes her true reward. “As a nurse, I not only familiarize myself with each patient’s treatment regimen, but I also connect myself to the patients and their families in a special way,” explains Stokes. “These children and their families are going through the struggle of a lifetime as they face painful procedures, unfamiliar environments and new faces, yet they always have a smile on their innocent faces. If I can make their experience just a little more pleasant and comfortable, even for the sake of the parents, it is my honor to give nothing but my best.”
Since the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award was established in 2003, almost 9,900 healthcare professionals have been nominated across the various nursing and non-physician disciplines. A panel of Cherokee representatives and past Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award recipients evaluates nominations and grants the awards.