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Sheryl Stoolman, nurse and emergency responder

Thursday morning wasn’t the first time Sheryl Stoolman volunteered to accompany a patient from Carroll to Des Moines.  In 2006, a severe snow storm was underway when the nurse from St. Anthony Regional Hospital said she would ride in the ambulance.   

She did it again on Thursday, taking her usual position – beside her patient, providing treatment, comfort and reassurance.  Sadly, that patient would be Sheryl’s last.   

The ambulance was about 38 miles east of Carroll on Highway 30, about halfway between Jefferson and Boone, when it encountered a semi about to make a left turn.  Suddenly seeing the ambulance coming up behind him, the semi driver moved toward the right lane.  At the same moment, the ambulance, driven by Robert Genzen of Manning, also moved to the right lane and his vehicle struck the back of the trailer.   

The collision killed Sheryl and her patient, 75-year-old Norbert Hoffman of Carroll.  Genzen was also injured and was flown to Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines.  The semi driver was not seriously hurt.   

Paramedic Wendy Baker, also riding in the rear of the ambulance, was taken to Greene County Medical Center in Jefferson.  Iowa State Patrol officers said that when they arrived at the accident, Baker was working feverishly to treat Sheryl, Genzen and their patient, ignoring her own injuries.  They had to pull her away.   

Sheryl was a nurse at St. Anthony for more than 25 years.  Over those years, her responsibilities included trauma nursing educator, organ donation program leader and coordinating the local emergency medical services team.   

Sheryl Stoolman, with St. Anthony Regional Hospital CEO Gary Riedmann, just after she received her Iowa Hospital Heroes Award in 2007.

 Living within walking distance of the hospital, Sheryl had no real concept of “on-duty” or “off-duty.”  She regularly attended to the bumps and scrapes of neighborhood children and checked on elderly neighbors.  She took personal time to visit and counsel the parents of a young cancer patient – before, during and after treatments.  More than once, she provided them with a calm, reassuring presence, even during several fretful, middle-of-the-night calls.   

Sheryl was truly a community nurse, a caregiver for all of Carroll.  That is why in 2007 Sheryl became one of the first recipients of the Iowa Hospital Heroes Award.  The coworkers who nominated Sheryl for the award said her work and dedication not only impacted St. Anthony, but the entire community.  More than an amazing nurse, they called her “Carroll’s hero.”  

Gary Riedmann, St. Anthony Regional Hospital CEO and a member of the IHA Board, said the hospital and community are working to cope with the loss: “Sheryl Stoolman was an exceptionally kind, gentle, professional nurse.  For many in our community, Sheryl was their guardian angel, always there to support and help out.  Our prayers and thoughts are with her family.  We miss Sheryl.”  

The ambulance trip in the 2006 blizzard, like Thursday’s run, was just a small example from Sheryl’s long career of generous giving and constant caring.   

That’s the way Sheryl Stoolman lived – selflessly, compassionately, courageously – all the way to the end. 

In recognition of National Nurses Week, IHA is taking an in-depth look at one of the many career tracks possible within the field of nursing.

Julie Larson is a nurse practitioner at Hancock County Memorial Hospital in Britt.  Julie was kind enough to take a few moments out of her very busy schedule to sit down with us and answer a few questions about her career and what advice she can provide to those who may be interested in pursuing this as his or her own nursing career.

YouTube link:

National Nurses Day is held on May 6 as part of National Nurse Week that ends on May 12, coinciding with Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

National Nurses Day has been in existence since 1965 with its inception by the International Council on Nurses as a day of recognition for some of the health care system’s finest and most dedicated and caring staff members.

Recognizing the dedication and commitment of Iowa nurses, the 6th Annual “100 Great Iowa Nurses” event was recently held at the Iowa Events Center, showcasing 100 of the best nurses as nominated and selected by their peers from across the state.  Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these nurses work at Iowa’s community hospitals.

We all know a great nurse and today everyone should take the time to thank them for their hard work, dedication and commitment to the patients they serve.  Iowa nurses provide care to patients around the clock in the best and worst of times.  National Nurses Week provides the opportunity to give back by simply saying, “Thank You.”

Here are a few Web sites that offer free, electronic Nurse Day cards to send:

  • 123 Greetings
  • Blue Mountain

It takes a lot to shake up an emergency room (ER) nurse.  But for Ronda Johnson, who works at Trinity Bettendorf’s ER and volunteered to go to Haiti shortly after that country’s devastating January earthquake, the concept of “trauma” will never be the same.

“You can’t go somewhere like this and not have it change you,” said Johnson, who has been in nursing for 18 years.  “CNN and all of the other images you see on TV don’t do it justice.  They don’t even come close.”

Johnson traveled with fellow Trinity Bettendorf ER nurse Catherine Jones to Port-au-Prince in the weeks following the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12.  Johnson and Jones were two of 12 from across the country who provided aid as part of a group coordinated by international relief organization Project Helping Hands.  Johnson had heard the group’s founder, Jeff Solheim, speak at a medical conference a few years ago and was impressed with their outreach efforts in third world countries.

“I contacted him afterward and told him, ‘If you ever need help, let me know if you have a need greater than the response,’” Johnson said.  “Immediately following the earthquake there was an urgent call put out; the need was that great.”

That’s an understatement.  After paying their own way to the impoverished island and bringing only the medical supplies they could carry with them, the nurses were inserted into an area with an 80 percent mortality rate.

While there, they witnessed lines of people waiting for hours in the sweltering heat for food and care.  They encountered survivors with tuberculosis begging for a job because their starving family needed food more than they needed medical attention.  And they were overcome by the smell of 60 decaying infant bodies, crushed in the rubble near an orphanage.

Johnson shares more details in a series of video interviews posted by the hospital.

Jennie Love
Infection Control Practitioner, RN
Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, Mason City

Traffic was unusually heavy and stop lights showed no mercy when Jennie Love headed home later than usual one summer evening.  Almost home but stopped once again, she was suddenly jolted by a car slamming into her vehicle’s rear bumper. 

The stoplight turned green just then, so she pulled around the corner and stopped by the curb.  As the young man driving the other car pulled passed Jennie’s car, Jennie saw he seemed more than a little upset, even though there was little damage to either vehicle.  When she approached his car to talk things over, Jennie discovered the young driver was not able to speak much more than an incomprehensible mumble and was having trouble breathing.

That’s when years of nurse’s training and practice kicked in.  Jennie asked him if he was choking and he nodded yes. As she helped him out of the car, his breathing stopped completely, so she performed the Heimlich maneuver as she yelled to a bystander to call 911.  Fortunately, Jennie was able to dislodge the food that was obstructing the young man’s airway.  In a few moments, he was breathing and then talking when paramedics arrived.

Now Jennie learned this was no accident. About a block before the accident, the other driver began choking on a piece of food.  In desperation, he purposely drove into Jennie’s car to get her attention.

“I believe that it was God’s plan that I was delayed that evening at work and that the stoplight turned red just before I got to it,” Jennie says,  “I also believe that with all of the traffic right then that God led this young man to hit my car, someone who had been trained in what to do.”

Jennie has since learned from the young man’s mother that he is enrolled in college – to become a nurse.