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Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Published September 2023 | In Fall 2023

When an accident left a young couple hospitalized far from home, friends and family showered them with kindness using Monument Health’s E-card program.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered Media

For most people, a hospital stay isn’t a great time in their life. It can be scary and uncomfortable, often coming as an unpleasant surprise. However, there are things that can make it a little better, including hearing from loved ones.

Just ask Mahra Wick and Isaac Thompson.

Mahra and Isaac are a fun couple — they just seem to go together, like peanut butter and jelly. On break from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, the two decided to take a vacation together, visiting three National Parks — Rocky Mountain, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. They bring out good humor in one another, and conversations tend to be cheerful when they’re in the room. That even includes their hospital rooms after a driver going 80 miles per hour in the wrong lane collided head on with their vehicle.

They both needed serious medical attention, especially Mahra, and Monument Health was able to provide that care. But stepping into their hospital rooms, you’d notice that they received more than clinical care — their walls were plastered with printed cards, part of an E-card program provided by Monument Health.

“At first, I didn’t even know this existed, and then we both started to get cards from my family and his family,” said Mahra. “People I’ve never met before sent me prayers and blessings on the cards. Some brought me to tears and others gave me a couple of laughs and smiles.”

“It has been mind-blowing. The cards really brightened my time here,” she added.

A silver lining

“The E-cards are something that came out of COVID-19,” said Pete McQuiston, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Monument Health. “Everyone was coming together and trying to find ways to help our patients, and one thing that came up a lot is that patients couldn’t have visitors.”

Pete explained that developing the E-card program was an effort that involved a lot of stakeholders across the organization — IT who built out the process, Public Relations and Marketing who designed the cards and Food and Nutrition who delivered the cards with the patients’ meals.

The COVID-19 pandemic has passed, but the E-cards have stuck around. “It still gives friends and family members a way to stay in contact with their loved ones if they can’t come visit in person or live far away,” said Pete.

Since the pandemic ended, Guest Services at Rapid City Hospital has taken on the task of delivering cards to patients. For Judi O’Connell, the Manager of Guest Services, this is a highlight of her role. “It’s so awesome getting to take the cards to people,” she said. “You can see how it brightens their day.” Judi encourages as many folks as possible to send E-cards to patients that they know. “Sometimes people can’t come and visit as often as they’d like, or they just want a way to send someone a smile, and the E-cards are the perfect way to do that.”

Judi O'Connell
Manager of Guest Services

“There is something a little bittersweet about my role — I’m always sorry that anyone needs to be in the hospital, but I’m grateful to do everything that we can to make their stay a little more pleasant. Whether that’s delivering an E-card or helping them be more comfortable. That’s what Guest Services is all about. We may not be able to help heal anyone in a clinical sense, but I believe we can help them feel better.”

Keeping in touch

Because Isaac and Mahra were on vacation, no one was nearby to visit them right away. To make matters worse, both their phones were lost in the accident, so friends and family members couldn’t reach out via text or social media. Instead, the two were flooded with E-cards.

“It completely made our day when we’d see Judi come in with a folder,” Isaac said with a chuckle. “She’d come in waving it, saying, ‘You got more!’ and it was a lot of fun. It was awesome, and really powerful. It made us both feel better knowing that people were thinking of us.”

Before long, they were locked in a fun-spirited competition — who would receive the most E-cards? “A couple of Isaac’s uncles started to send multiple cards with jokes on them,” Mahra said, “And my brother sent one that said, ‘I hear there’s a competition now, so tear it up!’”

Jennifer Hasvold, M.D.
Hospitalist

“Being hospitalized for an acute illness is an almost universally stressful experience. For many of our patients, staying connected to their loved ones makes all the difference. It’s easy to feel a sense of despair and isolation during a hospital stay, and I really see patients light up when they talk about the important people in their life. We serve a very large geographic area and many of our patients have friends and family who are thinking of them but are unable to visit in person. Cards and E-cards are a wonderful way to show patients that they are cared for. Healing is about much more than medicine — even small reminders to stay positive can make a huge impact.”

A little piece of kindness

Not everyone gets into a competition over who gets the most E-cards, but many people are happy to receive them during their stay at Monument Health. “So many patients are excited to share the messages they receive, and I’m always happy when they tell me what people have written. It’s a little piece of kindness that we get to share.” Judi said. “One woman received an E-card each day from her daughter, and it was so meaningful to her. We’ve had patients receive cards from across the country, and even from all over the world. It’s incredible.”

Pete echoed this sentiment and said, “We don’t have the same restrictions on visitors that initially led to the creation of this program, but it’s still a way to stay in contact. It’s great that this is so well used by the community and even by people from far away.”

“Morale is important, and I think there’s even an argument to be made about boosting patient satisfaction, improving recovery times and maybe even improving length of stay times,” Pete added.

Isaac and Mahra agreed. “Just getting these cards from everyone, it made us feel a whole lot better about our situation. It’s powerful,” said Isaac.

“I wish this was a common thing. I wish that everyone got these because they really did brighten our time in the hospital and made us forget for a few moments that we got in this accident,” added Mahra. “We got to hear from so many different people. I know Isaac got a bunch of cards from my family members who he’s never met before, and I got them from his family members who I’ve never met before either. It’s like we got to interact and connect with these people. Even though it was unfortunate circumstances, it was really a great experience.”

Written by Wade Ellett  

Photos by Bob Slocum