Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | October 4, 2019

A Bond Built by Care

Patient Story 9.19 (1)Neahleek Hudgins was excited to mark his 20th birthday with friends and family—a birthday he was told he may never see.

“Other hospitals before here told me I wouldn’t make it to my 20th birthday,” said Hudgins, who had been in an out of six different hospitals, sometimes as much as three times a week, before coming to Duke Raleigh Hospital. Hudgins’ body wasn’t absorbing the proper nutrition from his diet, causing weight loss, dehydration and loss of strength.

Hudgins has since spent three months at Duke Raleigh Hospital, back and forth to the Intensive Care Unit, intubated once, and often in his room on the fourth floor.

“There were times when I wanted to give up,” Hudgins said. “But, this staff has motivated me to do better, to eat better and to keep working. They really lifted me up when I was down and depressed.”

A team of doctors, nursing staff, PAs and Lisa Marker, Marcella Krzywicki and Illa Jones in Nutritional Services put together a plan for Hudgins focused on dietary changes, complex medication management and Hudgins’ motivation.

Hudgins gradually grew close with that team, his housekeepers, Cassandra Richey in pastoral services and Derrick Thornton, a patient experience ambassador. “They’ve become family,” Hudgins said.Patient Story 9.19 (11)

On Hudgins’ birthday, Duke Raleigh Hospital team members surprised him and his family with a celebration complete with gifts, decorations, a cake, fresh fruit and snacks, all organized by Thornton. Hudgins’ mother was also able to surprise him with family he hadn’t seen in a while.

“I really feel like you’re a father to me,” Hudgins told Thornton as he opened the new Bluetooth headphones Thornton gifted him. “You’ve helped me see what I have to live for.”

Thornton joked, “I’m not sure I’m quite old enough to be your father,” but said he agrees with the sentiment.

“I’m in a unique position where I get to spend quality time with our patients to help ensure their experience is consistent with the values here at Duke Raleigh Hospital,” Thornton later said. “During this time patients not only share their concerns, but their life stories and a connection is often made. Neahleek is an inspiring young man and it means a lot to have this connection and watch him grow.”

As Hudgins’ care continues at Duke Raleigh Hospital he says he’s exploring the idea of becoming a nurse, inspired and motivated himself by the medical team and the steps they’ve taken in his care.

–by Stephen McNulty

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