Caring for the Whole Family: Renown Nurse Helps Patient with Ailing Pet

February 28, 2018

Nurses at trauma center

Registered Nurse Tori Tembey (left) shared how her co-worker and fellow RN Jennifer Payne helped a patient with his pet's end-of-life arrangements. "It was such a selfless act that Jennifer took the time to do this for the patient.” Tembey says.

Pets become members of our own family, and when they are ill or at the end of their lives, it can be devastating for their owners. During a hospital stay, a Renown patient was faced with the difficult decision to euthanize their terminally ill pet. A Renown registered nurse stepped in to help in some pretty remarkable ways.

Back in high school, Jennifer Payne wanted to be a veterinarian. She worked in a veterinary hospital and planned to attend veterinary school, but struggled with some of the situations she faced.

“I have a lot of compassion for animals,” Payne explains. “And some of the things I saw while working at the vet — like people bringing in their cat saying, ‘I’m moving, you need to put this cat down’ — wasn’t OK with me, and wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

She changed course and went into nursing, but recently drew upon her early experiences working with pets and their owners to help a Renown patient in an extraordinary way.

Payne now works in the trauma intensive care unit at Renown Regional Medical Center, where she recently observed a county animal control officer visiting a patient. The patient was visibly upset — they learned their dog was terminally ill and in poor health, and a veterinarian was recommending euthanasia.

The patient had lost another dog just before Christmas. The patient hoped to have his ill dog similarly cremated, but animal control does not perform cremation.

“I overheard all of this and thought, ‘this is the most horrible thing I’ve ever heard,’” Payne says.

She offered to pick up the dog, have him cremated and bring the ashes to the patient. She also took up a collection with her Renown colleagues to pay for the cremation.

The next day — her day off — Payne and her young daughter picked up the ashes and brought them to the patient at the hospital.

“He couldn’t even talk because he was crying so much,” Payne says. “He said ‘I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done. You’re a wonderful person.’ There was a friend in the room who asked what my daughter’s name was, and I said ‘Estelle.’ The friend said, ‘Estelle, your mother is an angel.’”

Payne, who has a golden retriever of her own, says she knows what it’s like to have “fur babies,” and she could see how important this dog was to the patient.

“It was great to be able to do this for him,” she says.

Renown salutes nurses like Jennifer Payne, who are making a genuine difference everyday in the lives of patients and in the community.

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