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March 12, 2021

"Angels ... Wear Red": Letter of Appreciation Thanks Nurse at IU Health Arnett Hospital

IU Health Arnett Hospital

How do you ever say thank you to the one that saved your life? Pastor Jim Higdon wrote a letter of appreciation to the leadership at IU Health Arnett recognizing his healthcare hero Stefanie Ridoutt.

Ridoutt is a nurse on the progressive care (PCU) unit of IU Health Arnett Hospital. For the past year, the PCU team has treated the majority of the COVID-19 positive patients, especially the sickest.

Jim Higdon is the pastor at Stockwell United Methodist Church. He was admitted to the hospital with COVID in November. He had been in the hospital a few days when his health suddenly and fairly dramatically took a turn for the worse. Early in the morning, with a high fever and plummeting oxygen levels, he was taken to PCU for more advanced care.

“It was into this darkest night of my life that God sent an angel to watch over me… and not all angels have wings, some of them wear red surgical scrubs,” remarked Higdon.

Ridoutt was his nurse. She immediately put ice packs around him to help lower his fever. She provided direction to the team and engaged with Higdon. “She looked over at me… and I don’t know if it was the tears on my cheeks, or the fear in my eyes, but she came over, took my hand and said “Don’t be afraid, my name is Stefanie, and I am going to do everything in my power to get you back to your family,” remembers Higdon.

Higdon was hours away from being put on a ventilator, something he says he did not want. Ridoutt knew the next 24-72 hours were critical in his healthcare journey. She contacted Higdon’s wife Karen who told the team to do whatever was necessary to save his life, including putting him on a ventilator. She was not ready to lose him after 40 years of marriage, two children and four grandchildren.

Mrs. Higdon reports that Ridoutt was the only nurse who called with regular updates and cried with her while working to reassure her. Ridoutt says that she was just doing her job. Ridoutt is known as Nurse Stefanie with the Higdon family and if Nurse Stefanie said he was going to survive, he would.

Higdon sincerely believes that Ridoutt’s actions that morning and throughout the next two weeks saved his life. Even when she wasn’t his nurse, she would stop by his window, open the blinds, and give a little wave to say hi.

Ridoutt was sometimes strict with Higdon, especially if she felt that he wasn’t following instructions, such as doing deep breathing exercises, or laying on his side enough, or not laying on his stomach enough – not an easy task with a BiPAP machine.

There were times when Higdon was feeling very low and losing hope. Ridoutt could sense his despair and would take his hand, “One day at a time my friend! You are doing just fine, and I promised you that I was going to do my best to get you out of here. And I keep my promises.”

When her reassurances would cause a tear, she would have to remind him not to make her cry. It is impossible to wipe the tears out of your eyes when wearing PPE.

“The funny thing is that I never saw Nurse Stefanie’s face, she always wore a mask, a full-face shield, a cap over her hair, a gown, and 2 pairs of gloves. But I could see her eyes, which were filled with caring, concern and compassion,” remembers Higdon.

Higdon and his wife believe that Ridoutt was his advocate. “If she felt that I needed something such as Physical Therapy, the next thing I knew, a physical therapist was coming into my room. She discovered that I had developed a case of thrush and an hour later I was receiving medication for it. She was my guardian angel,” shared Higdon.

On Wednesday, February 24, Higdon and his wife jumped at the chance to meet Ridoutt with red roses in hand. Higdon says he thinks of Nurse Stefanie whenever he sees red roses. Ridoutt explained that she was just doing her job – treating a patient and his family just like she would like her family to be treated. She feels blessed to have been part of his journey.

“It was very special to get to see him with his health restored, but it was extra special to get to meet his wife. It’s hard to explain the connections you form not just with patients, but with their families even if it’s over the phone. One of the many privileges that come with the job,” shared Ridoutt.

For the Higdons, Nurse Stefanie is now part of their family.

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