ThedaCare Team Member Named DASH Award Recipient

Mary Winter RN

Honored for Providing Extraordinary Care to Donor Patients and Families

December 22, 2020

APPLETON, Wis. – A ThedaCare registered nurse has recently been awarded the November 2020 Donation Advocate Super Hero (DASH) Award from UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD). One DASH Award is presented each month to a hospital staff member who provides extraordinary care to a donor patient and or a donor patient’s family. Mary Winter, an RN at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton, was nominated by an organ procurement coordinator from UW OTD.

“This was truly a surprise for me,” said Mary. “I never could have imagined being honored for doing the work I do every day, for every patient. I love being a nurse and serving others in a meaningful way.” 

Mary has been with ThedaCare for more than 29 years, and a nurse for 37 years. She has worked with patients through a variety of care areas including the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) and the Catheterization Lab.

A caregiver is typically nominated for the DASH award after a specific patient case. In November 2020, Mary was caring for a patient who was nearing the end of life.

“Mary had picked up an extra shift to help her co-workers” explained Kelsi Knivila, Organ Procurement Coordinator. “Mary started her shift in the morning and stayed throughout the double shift. She was the primary registered nurse, and took the role of providing end of life care with a calm and positive attitude.”

At the time of care, the patient did not have family at the hospital, and that is when Mary stepped in.  

“Mary went above and beyond, and immediately pulled up a chair to begin comforting the patient through her words, letting him know he was okay,” said Knivila. “She held the patient’s hand so he would have presence of someone there for him.”

The family requested caregivers play music for the patient, AC/DC.

“Throughout his passing she leaned over him, singing AC/DC while caressing his face and hair,” said Knivila. “This was remarkable. Mary was instrumental in showing support and compassion when this patient needed it most.”

“When I was given the opportunity to care for this patient, I did my best to prepare myself for what I knew would happen,” said Mary. “I feel blessed to help a person leave this Earth, and no one should pass feeling alone. These patients and their stories stay with me, and I do my best to help the families through a difficult time.”

Mary also has a personal connection – she’s a family member of an organ donor.

“My brother, Jeff, passed away in a motor vehicle accident three years ago, and was an organ donor,” she said. “So I do have that experience, and I can understand what the families are going through.”

Mary’s dedication to patients began long ago when her father suggested she and her twin sister pursue nursing careers. And that’s just what they did. Her sister is also a registered nurse. Mary can share a bit of advice for the younger generation of nurses.

“Do what you can to help patients and their families relax and trust you,” she said. “Hold your patient’s hand if possible, and simply be there for them. Sometimes it is all they need.”