Passion for Compassion

by Melissa Brunner

If Darlene Whitlock had her way, a celebration in her honor would include blue jeans and burgers at a park shelter house. But a big award calls for something a bit fancier, so she got dressed up Wednesday night while her colleagues applauded her 40+ years of nursing service and presented her the Stormont-Vail Foundation's Bal Jeffrey Award.

You see, I think the only reason Darlene relented is so she could thank all the people she's worked with over the years who, she would be quick to say, deserve all the credit for anything that might be credited to her. Well, she might have had help, but all those people had a pretty good leader!

I've visited with Darlene many times over the years about her work to promote the use of bicycle helmets and seatbelts, among other issues. We caught her by surprise recently when we set up to do an interview on a safety topic (which you'll see in a couple weeks), and began by asking a few questions about herself and her love of nursing - yes, Darlene, a story on YOU to recognize your big award!

One of Darlene's passions is something we didn't have time to include in the piece you saw on 13 News (we only have one to two minutes on most things!). Darlene talked about how important she feels it is for families to be informed and have the option to be close during a trauma situation. The reality of trauma is that not everyone will survive. The fear, though, is that if loved ones are allowed to be in the room, they will somehow interfere with treatment. Darlene says she has taken more than 100 families into what she described as a "code" situation and not one has interfered. Later, she says, the families would share how much it meant to them to be with their loved one in their final moments.

You might disagree with seatbelt laws and helmet use, but there's not disputing Darlene's passion for keeping people safe. You can build a great trauma center, she says, but it's no substitute for not being injured in the first place. It's nice to know, though, that if something should happen, you have a friend in Darlene.

Congratulations on an honor well-deserved.


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