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7Everyday Hero holds vigil over dying patients when family can't be there

Posted at 2:28 PM, Jul 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-08 16:28:24-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When patients are alone and at the end of their lives, Susie Christian answers the call for help.

"It's getting to be a part of a really intense part of people's lives," Christian said.

Christian is not a doctor, she's a volunteer for Swedish Medical Center's No One Dies Alone program, or NODA. She sits with dying patients when nobody else can.

"The program's really simple; the volunteers submit their cell phone number and they receive a text when there's a need and whoever can take that call gets the information and then comes to the hospital to be with the patient," said Theresa Lelong of Swedish Medical Center.

For Christian, that call came during our recent "bomb cyclone" snowstorm. Denver International Airport was shut down and the patient's family could not fly in to be by his side.

"I had never seen a patient who was unresponsive before," Christian recalled. "When I walked in I just had a feeling that he was a really nice guy. I don't know how you can tell that, but I just kind of knew it."

For 17 hours, she held vigil by his hospital bedside.

"I told him that if he wanted to die alone, that this is a good time to do it because I'm going to be gone for four hours and I would try to check in on him from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. He passed at 12:45 p.m.," she said.

"Susie shared with me how grateful the family of her patient was that she was able to be there with him," Lelong said.

Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy, but thanks to volunteers like Christian, there's comfort in knowing someone is by their side.

Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.