In her 20 years as a nurse with St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, Michelle Amstutz has seen her fair share of heartaches and triumphs, and lots of tears and smiles in between. Now a labor and delivery nurse, Michelle says she tries to make each day at the hospital as meaningful as her first.
“You do make an impact every day. As you go out of that door you’re thinking about, ‘Am I going to make a difference?’ You might not know it today, but you do.”
Her soothing voice and gentle demeanor were well-suited for a video Saint Joseph Mercy Health System produced in May to celebrate Nurses’ Week. She was among more than a dozen nurses and was only on screen for four seconds, but it was long enough for someone to take notice.
Shortly after that video was posted, Michelle received this message in her Facebook inbox:
“Good morning. I sure hope I have the right Michelle. If not, I am sorry, and just delete and get on with your day.
Almost 18 years ago, my hubby Bill was a patient on the 5th floor at St. Joe’s. He was there for five weeks so we got to really appreciate the many who had a part in his care. A very difficult time for us, but I have so many wonderful memories of all the amazing nurses who were above and beyond anything anyone could have expected. God had wonderful nurses in place for us as we went through a very difficult time, and you were one of them.
Thank you for your kindness and your care of my hubby. I will never forget. I saw you on the info at St. Joe’s Facebook. God bless you and your outstanding care. You were and always will be appreciated. People do remember.”
The brief but heartfelt note from Eunice Moorhead catapulted Michelle back to her early days at St. Joe’s, to the time she cared for Bill on the Abdominal, Vascular and Trauma unit on the old 5th floor in early 1998.
“I remembered immediately,” Michelle said, “because when her husband was there she gave me a glass ornament of an angel, and I put it on my Christmas tree every year to this day.”
Michelle said she didn’t think her actions were extraordinary – she was simply doing her job. But it meant so much more to the woman on the receiving end.
“Michelle was so very, very special,” Eunice shared. “Kind words, hugs, a listening ear and so many other ways that only a dedicated nurse would understand how to reach out to people who are really hurting.
“I have often said that it was the best worst time of my life. Yes, his illness was very hard, but we had amazing people helping us,” she added.
Eunice was happy to learn Michelle hadn’t forgotten her or her husband. And now, years after Bill’s death, the two women have kindled a friendship beyond social media. After exchanging Facebook messages back and forth, the two met in person this week.
Michelle said Eunice’s letter confirmed what she’s believed all along.
“What you do really does make a difference. Maybe it’s not something they’ll tell you about right away, but 20 years later, that’s amazing,” she said.
This Christmas, Michelle will hang the glass angel Eunice gave her 18 years ago on her tree, knowing the gratitude goes both ways.