Parents Laud Health First Healthcare Professionals: Thank You, Holmes, for Returning Our Son to Us

By  //  November 27, 2020

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Delgado was found unresponsive and in a coma

Any parent’s nightmare is the call in the night from first responders or the hospital: Are you the mother of …? For Tara and Joe DelGado, it was their call to Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center that solved a recent “John Doe” admittance. (Health First image)

19-year-old falls more than four stories off a balcony, was found in a coma in critical condition

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Any parent’s nightmare is the call in the night from first responders or the hospital: Are you the mother of …?

For Tara and Joe DelGado, it was their call to Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center that solved a recent “John Doe” admittance.

In July, the DelGados’ son, Chris, a Tulane University student who was completing coursework online from the comfort of the family’s Cape Canaveral condominium, was found unresponsive outside the family’s beachside condominium by strangers and rushed to Holmes Regional.

“The night we learned that our 19-year-old son had fallen more than four stories off a balcony and was in a coma in critical condition was the worst of our lives,” Tara said.

In fact, the DelGados only learned of the accident a day later. Chris was admitted to the Level II Trauma Center as a “John Doe.”

He had no identification and, because of the nature of the fall and the particular complex where he was staying, it wasn’t immediately clear if he was a resident.

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“Personally, until his case, I’d never taken care of a ‘John Doe,’” said Jessica Evans, RN, one of Chris’ earliest and primary intensive care unit (ICU) caregivers.

“I just remember thinking, ‘Someone’s gotta be missing this kid. How do we find them?’”

When Tara and Joe didn’t hear from Chris within about 24 hours of his fall, they began making calls. Nurses and case managers at Holmes Regional were prepared and were able to match Chris to a photo they sent.

Tara and Joe were told their son had sustained traumatic injuries to his brain and hip, among others. Their son was in a coma but, due to COVID-19, hospital regulations restricted visitation for health and safety reasons.

“All we could think about was how alone he was and how he didn’t have his loving parents there to take care of him and talk sweetly to him and show him love,” Tara said.

The DelGados reached out to the ICU nurses several times a day for updates on Chris’ condition, “and they were always so patient, knowledgeable, informative and compassionate with us.”

“We have restrictions due to COVID-19 that have been put in place for the safety of our patients, the safety of our staff, everyone in the hospital, but as a mother myself, getting this news and knowing I wouldn’t be able to see my kid? It would be very difficult,” said Nichole McKee, ICU Nurse Manager.

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It was on one of the early calls that Holmes nurses placed the receiver to Chris’ ear so that Tara and Joe could speak to their son. At the end of that call, for the first time since being admitted, Chris stirred.

“They brought our voices up to his ear, and it made a difference.”

Slowly, Chris came out of the coma. After a time, he was able to talk. Staff used a video-calling app so Tara and Joe could see and speak to their son as specialists delivered important updates about his health and recovery.

Shortly, the parents had a new iPad delivered to nurses just for the purpose.

“We were distraught at not being there with him, but it quickly became apparent to us that he was in exceptionally good hands with the nurses and all the staff at Holmes Regional,” Tara said.

“They provided the care, understanding, encouragement and love that we could not throughout Chris’ time in the hospital.”

Today, they have donated the iPad to the unit so that other parents may have the same opportunity for closeness at a time when distancing is required.

“There is no question that Holmes Regional saved our son’s life and gave us back the brightest light in ours,” Tara said.

“We know that without exceptional round-the-clock care, he may not have lived, or if he had, he may not have returned to the fully functioning, fun-loving, amazing kid that he is today.”

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After nearly six weeks at Holmes Regional – and a longer period of physical rehabilitation and convalescence off campus – Chris returned Thursday, November 19, with his parents to thank the staff and present them with cupcakes and fruit treats.

It was the first time Tara and Joe got to thank those closest to their son in his greatest time of need.

The reunion took place inside the hospital’s auditorium. All wore masks and kept physically distanced.

“When patients leave the ICU, they never come back. That’s good! We want that. So, this is very unusual,” said nurse Jessica.

“He’s so young, has everything going for him, so I have high hopes. This is very rewarding. Just seeing him helps me as a nurse to tell myself, ‘Hey, I know what I’m doing. I made the right calls.’”

“I was focused on getting better, keeping my attitude positive. I feel like I’m making more progress than what was anticipated,” said Chris.

“I don’t remember their faces because of the injury, but they did a pretty amazing job. I’m happy to come back and say, ‘Thank you.’”

It was a total surprise for the staff to see “John Doe” again, whom they had informally nicknamed, “little dude.”

It was the warmest of pre-Thanksgiving thanks for Health First healthcare workers who, now in this era of COVID-19, need some goodwill and gratitude for their service to our community.

It was redemptive, too, for Tara and Joe, who, the entire time their son was brought back from the brink, never stepped foot in the unit or met any of his specialists face-to-face.

“It’s amazing. ‘Thank you’ feels completely insufficient to the people who saved your son’s life,” said Tara.

“They cared about his needs, his moods and his spirits, too. They cared about us. It’s important for these nurses to remember they have played a part in who Chris becomes now.”

“Thank you, Holmes, for returning our son to us.”

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