Crystal Sainato, Floating Pool Nurse, Omaha VA Medical Center: Helping Those Who Served | Nurses

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Amy Lamar

Crystal Sainato doesn’t always come home at the end of her shift, especially if she gets the chance to spread some joy.

“People aren’t there because they’re happy and feeling good,” she said. “I try to bring some kind of happiness to their darkest times.”

For many patients, it’s joking to make them laugh – or even just to make them smile. Once was a shave. Another time it was a massage — anything to make them feel better, she said.

For a patient in intensive care, it was lunch.

“We were talking about our favorite foods and he really liked fried catfish,” Sainato said. “I found a place that had it on the menu and brought him lunch. He couldn’t believe I had done that, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. I told him : ‘You wanted it. I brought it.'”

Sometimes the “request” is not so simple. One patient was very upset “calling on God”, he told her, because he wanted Sainato to kill him. The only thing she could do to calm him down was to sit with him and hold his hand.

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It was “very heartbreaking”, she said, but she had sworn years before never to let a patient die alone. At the time, she was working in a skilled nursing facility and had a patient in hospice. The experience really had an impact on her, just like the one that convinced her to become a nurse in the first place.

After high school, Sainato served in the Nebraska Army National Guard and was eventually deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. After a nine-month reprieve, she volunteered to return to Iraq to provide convoy security. She was trained by a medical specialist named Tricia Jameson, who was later killed in action.

“She was the seed,” Sainato said.

For the past nine months, Sainato has worked night shifts at the Omaha VA Medical Center assisting fellow nurses with everything from routine patient care to administering medication.

She undoubtedly spreads a bit of joy too.

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