In 23 years as a leader in health care, Pam Maxwell had never received a letter quite like this one. Written in the precious penmanship of 10-year-old Madison Thompson, this special thank you began with a simple, “Dear Hospital.” “… I just wanted to say thank you for helping my grandpa stay safe during one of the most scary things that happened.” Signed Madison T., along with a big, hand-drawn heart. “The letter was very sweet and thoughtful and written from the heart,” says Maxwell, senior vice president and chief nursing officer. “It touched me.”
The letter came a few months after Madison’s grandfather drove himself to the emergency department at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital, experiencing shortness of breath but not realizing he was having a heart attack. The medical team immediately admitted him, and he spent a week in the critical care unit in December. After having bypass surgery at another facility, he remains under the watchful care of Tidelands Health cardiologist Dr. Mitchell Devlin. It was a scary experience for the family, especially young Madison, who isn’t old enough to have access to the CCU.
Pam Maxwell, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Tidelands Health, with 10-year-old Madison Thompson and Thompson's grandfather James Hale
But her mom, Lisa Thompson, says the medical team – from the nurses who made a special exception for Madison to spend a few minutes with her grandpa on Christmas Day to the doctor who so carefully explained the complicated medical condition – helped calm their concerns during the stressful, uncertain situation. “It helped me understand more and made me feel better knowing Grandpa was well taken care of,” says Madison, a fourth grader at Waterway Elementary School in North Myrtle Beach. “I just wanted to say thank you.”
Today, Grandpa, known to the rest of us as James Hale, has recovered but still has regular appointments with Dr. Devlin, who received high praise from Thompson for taking the time to explain what was happening during that December hospital stay. “We weren’t just another number or someone on the roster he had to check on. He genuinely cared about his care and treated my dad like an actual person,” Thompson says. “He put us all at ease a little bit more.”
It had been a few months since that hospital stay when Madison unexpectedly walked over to her mom in the family home with an unusual request. “She came over and said, ‘Will you mail this for me?’” Thompson recalls. Thompson wasn’t sure what the letter was all about. After reading it – bringing tears to her eyes over her daughter’s gratitude – Thompson willingly dropped the letter in the mail, thinking many organizations get plenty of feedback when things go wrong but not enough thank yous. She thought about fixing some of the spelling and grammar, but she decided the letter was perfect coming straight from Madison’s heart, in her own loving words. “She just did it all on her own,” Thompson says. “All she wanted to do was say thank you for taking care of her grandpa. Of course, I started crying.” The letter arrived on Maxwell’s desk just a couple of days later. Touched by the sweet gesture, she put together a box of Tidelands Health goodies – a water bottle, shirt, teddy bear – and shipped them along with a hand-written note to Madison. “We got this big box and I thought, ‘How cool is this?” says Thompson, who couldn’t wait to share it with Madison after school. Just like the medical team had left a lasting impression, so did this box of goodies. Thompson took a video of how much it meant to Madison.
Even now, Thompson struggles to sum up just how much she appreciates the medical team who helped her father recover and made the uncertain, emotional circumstances just a bit easier on the family. “I couldn’t put it in words,” Thompson says. “Maddie did it best.”