The couple was staying in the hospital with a sick child. When the staff heard it was their anniversary, they arranged a special dinner with candlelight and flowers.
Jim and Jill Somerville ended up with an anniversary to remember — and a commemorative plaqueOctober 12, 2023
Oct. 6 was Jim and Jill Somerville’s wedding anniversary, but celebrating the occasion was not top of mind.
Their son, Sean, 16, was in Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, recovering from his third open-heart surgery for aortic stenosis. He had been hospitalized for several weeks.
And while concern over a sick child would be enough stress for any parent, Jill was also concerned about a sick parent: Her 92-year-old father, who has Alzheimer’s disease and a severe heart condition, was hospitalized in Clarksville, Tennessee, their hometown.
On that day, staff chaplain Lisa Hermann was making her rounds on the 10th floor of Monroe Carell, and she asked Jill Somerville a simple question: “How are things going?”
That simple question opened the floodgates. As Jim participated in the medical team rounding that morning in Sean’s room, Jill and the chaplain spoke quietly. Jill told Hermann everything.
“I broke down about what all was going on with our family, Sean and my dad,” she said.
And, almost as an aside, Jill mentioned one more thing: “I also happened to mention that it was our 22nd wedding anniversary.”
Hermann noticed a smile develop when Jill mentioned the anniversary. And the wheels started turning.
“I was taken aback at what all they did to make our anniversary special in light of everything that was going on. I get emotional just thinking back on it all.”
“I saw the joy when she talked about their anniversary,” Hermann said. “The smile it brought in the midst of crisis, a long admission and uncertainty. I thought there had to be something we could do to make this a special occasion, and I went to work.”
Hermann asked Elise Lowe, a pediatric cardiology social worker for assistance.
The first thought was dinner.
“We had gift cards donated by the Brett Boyer Foundation for patient families,” Lowe said. That would allow the couple to order a special takeout meal.
Then came thoughts of flowers and candles, and a private room to have the special meal.
“In my experience of working with Lisa, she really gets to know people and always goes above and beyond to make sure the whole family feels supported,” Lowe said.
Hermann reached out to Anita Smith, the guest services representative on the 10th floor for help with decorating; Carol Cowart, senior administrative assistant, to secure decor and the conference room on the floor; and Mikayla Taylor, program manager in the Family Resource Center, to help create signs.
Everyone began working to create the special set up for the Somervilles to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
“The Somervilles are great parents,” said Smith, who was charged with decorating the dinner table. “Lisa gave me all the items, and I went to work. It was a natural instinct. I am here for the families of the patients. Our job is to make sure they are OK and to do what we can do to assist them.”
Cowart loaned decorations — a tablecloth, candles and a flower arrangement — for the event.
“I feel incredibly grateful to work in a hospital and with a team that still recognizes the humanity of those within our walls even during sadness and chaos.”
“So many times family events are forgotten or pushed aside when loved ones are sick,” Cowart said. “If only for a moment they had full hearts, smiles and a few giggles to celebrate their love of 22 years.”
And to top off the celebration, the pair was greeted with a sign on the door and a plaque on the table commemorating the occasion, thanks to Taylor.
“I feel incredibly grateful to work in a hospital and with a team that still recognizes the humanity of those within our walls even during sadness and chaos,” Taylor said.
When the Somervilles came back onto the 10th floor from picking up their dinner takeout order (courtesy of the gift card) and were escorted to the room that had been prepared for their candlelight dinner, the tears flowed once again.
“I was crying tears of joy,” said Jill. “I was taken aback at what all they did to make our anniversary special in light of everything that was going on. I get emotional just thinking back on it all.”
Jim was also amazed at the gesture.
“It really cheered us up a bit and allowed us to celebrate and not focus on all the other stuff for a few hours,” he said. “We didn’t think we were going to celebrate until we got Sean home, but thanks to everyone involved, we were able to escape for a few hours.”
So what was the menu for the special dinner?
The pair dined on cowboy steak, buffalo shrimp, lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus and heirloom carrots and topped it all off with a brookie (a combination brownie and cookie) for dessert.
Hermann modestly says the anniversary dinner was all in a day’s work.
“I am proud to be a part of the care team at Monroe Carell,” Hermann said. “From physicians and nurses to guest services, social workers and others, we are all a part of the team. It takes each one of us, every day.
“I heard feelings shared and thought ‘Huh, maybe there is something we can do to recognize this milestone, even if for a moment. Let me reach out to my teammates for help.”
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