Avera Medical Minute: Heartbeat in a Bottle

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Marla Dziedzic has great memories of her mom Norma. "A woman of really strong faith. She loved to cook, she loved to play Euchre, that was her favorite card game. She mostly loved her grandkids and her great-grandkids. The great-grandkids called her 'Little Grandma' because she was so tiny," said Dziedzic.

heartbeat in a bottle given to family members of a loved one who dies

The memories are a comfort through this time of losing her mom. So are messages of sympathy from others. One of the acts of remembrance that impacted the whole family just minutes after Norma died came from a nurse at the Avera Heart Hospital.

"That nurse was so compassionate she was crying with us, and about 20 minutes after mom passed away, she came in with the heartbeat in the bottle, and it was mom's last heartbeat. Such a small thing can make such a big difference," said Dziedzic.

"We're able to take an EKG strip, which is just sort of an image of what your heartbeat looks like, and put it in a little bottle, as a keepsake and pass it along to families who lose a loved one," said Avera Clinical Governance President Lauren Cornay.

Marla says the hours in a hospital room and the procedures can be a blur, but over time, what becomes clear in her mind are the moments of compassion toward the whole family.

"The ice water they bring in for the family or the coloring books for the grandkids, and this was just a little thing that made a huge difference," said Dziedzic.

"Families in this moment of devastating grief, they just want something tangible, something to hold onto to remember their loved one and to know that memory is going to live on," said Cornay.

Cornay knows what that means, from the standpoint of a loved one in the hospital. Her grandmother was there, but there wasn't a chance to get an EKG. Cornay was a part of a team that helped develop the heartbeat in the bottle.

As Marla's family goes through the grieving process, they keep memories alive. "We feel her with us and my dad as well," said Dziedzic.
"Just looking around and having remembrance. Different things remind us of our Mom, that's what the heartbeat bottle does for me."

The staff is showing that caring for others is more than a heart procedure, but also matters of the heart, at a time of loss.

"I think it's just a little special way for them to say, we're so sorry that you're grieving, we're here with you," said Cornay.