PALMDALE — Natasha Lynch, a nurse in Palmdale Regional Medical Center’s intensive care unit, brings compassion to caring for her patients and their loved ones, in one case even past the point of hospital care.
Recently, Lynch took care of a dying patient, a Korean War veteran whose son had been taking care of him for six years, but had become homeless and could not afford the burial expenses for his father. So Lynch, the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, set out to raise money and make arrangements for his burial in Riverside National Cemetery.
“Veterans are close to my heart,” Lynch said, with her father, grandfather and uncles having served. “It just hurts my heart to see a patient like that.”
“It’s a disservice to our vets and it’s not a way to say thank you for their service to make them live on life support” without options for their death and burial, she said.
She was recognized Thursday for her “above and beyond” actions with a DAISY Award, part of a nationwide program which “rewards and celebrates the extraordinary clinical skill and compassionate care given by nurses every day,” according to Palmdale Regional Medical Center officials. The hospital presents the awards quarterly, with recipients nominated by patients, families and co-workers.
“Her compassion is truly outstanding and should be recognized,” said Nancy Kindschi, DAISY Award coordinator, of Lynch, who has been an ICU nurse for eight years.
When Lynch learned of the son’s financial situation, she looked into what options were available for a veteran, turning to her father and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter in Quartz Hill for guidance. While the Veterans Administration will provide a burial plot in a national cemetery, funds were still needed for the mortuary services and transportation to the cemetery.
She approached the Breakfast for Vets program conducted by Desert Vineyard to raise the money needed, and participants there donated $2,200 toward the cause.
“It was really amazing to see people pull out ($100 bills) because I asked them to. They did this out of the kindness of their hearts, without ever meeting him or his son,” Lynch said. “I think it just shows the community that we live in and how we can support our vets.”
Because the patient’s religion precluded the less-expensive cremation, Lynch worked to ensure they had the funds for a burial, and found a mortuary which offered discounted services for veterans. She paid the $35 death certificate herself, and made sure all the paperwork was in order for the Veterans Administration.
Working with the VFW, they were able to bring his son to Riverside for a small graveside memorial.
“It was just a quiet burial, what the son wanted,” she said.
In addition, Lynch contacted Rep. Steve Knight’s office to complete the necessary paperwork to obtain the patient’s Purple Heart and other medals for his son that he had lost many years ago.
“It was a learning process for me,” Lynch said. “For me, it was a lesson too, that we can help vets in the future. It’s not the first time, and probably not the last time we’re going to have someone here with financial problems.”
She learned there are many resources available for veterans, but many people are unaware of them, and now she has the knowledge to share.
“I am so proud of the nurses I have in the ICU. Natasha is one shining example of the kindness and compassion in the ICU,” ICU Director Sharon Watkins said. “I am lucky to have her on my team.”
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