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Nurses honored for their care of police officer wounded by gunfire

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VCU Medical Center nurses Amy Dolan, Latisha Perry and Shameka Hewlett stand outside the Maggie Walker Governor’s School after receiving the Service to Law Enforcement Award at the Richmond Police Department’s Salute to Excellence Award Ceremony.

When Richmond Police Officer William Turner was taken to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center for treatment of gunshot wounds on Jan. 2, health officials thought his outlook was grim.

“I remember him at first being very sick. I honestly didn't think his outcome would be good,” said Shameka Hewlett, a registered nurse in VCU Medical Center. Hewlett cared for Turner during his two-week stay at the hospital. 

A 31-year department veteran, Turner was shot multiple times by a man police said was the subject of a mental health call. During Turner’s treatment at VCU, his medical team included Hewlett and registered nurses Amy Dolan and Latisha Perry. While being treated, Turner underwent emergency surgery and required medication to stabilize his blood pressure and keep him comfortable.

Fast forward seven months, Turner is strong and agile enough to walk to the stage of the Maggie Walker Governor’s School to accept the Medal of Valor award presented by the Richmond Police Department during its Salute To Excellence Award Ceremony. Additionally, in recognition of the outstanding treatment he received, Turner’s VCU Medical Center caretakers received a Service to Law Enforcement Award at the event.

“VCU was instrumental in the treatment and recovery of Officer Turner,” said Maj. Odetta Turner, mistress of ceremony. “The family would like to thank them for their sincerity and compassion during his time at the hospital.”

As bedside nurses, we are not only sounding boards, translators and advocates, but shoulders to cry on and lean on for support.

Hewlett, Dolan and Perry all expressed gratitude for the award, but admit they feel uncomfortable in the limelight.

“The award is gratifying but, honestly, unnecessary. I really appreciate the thanks but I'm doing my job and I love it,” said Dolan, who helped care for Turner his first night in the surgical trauma intensive care unit.

Witnessing Turner’s transformation was a major part of the reward, Perry said.

Officer William Turner (middle) stands with members of the Richmond Police Department to accept the Medal of Valor award at the Richmond Police Department’s Salute to Excellence Award Ceremony.
Officer William Turner (middle) stands with members of the Richmond Police Department to accept the Medal of Valor award at the Richmond Police Department’s Salute to Excellence Award Ceremony.

“For me, it is amazing to see patients like Officer Turner who experience an event like this, and go on to live full, productive lives,” she said. I am honored to be part of the team that made life after trauma possible for Officer Turner, his family and his fellow officers of the Richmond Police Department.”

During one of the uncertain times of Turner’s hospital stay, Dolan encountered an aspect of her job that can be particularly sensitive to handle.

“I had told his wife, Ms. Pat, she shouldn't worry until I was worried. I remember on his third night, around 2 a.m., his condition worsened. After trying many interventions and talking with the doctors, it was decided to take him urgently to the operating room,” she said. “I walked down the hall to where his wife was sleeping in a vacant room, gently woke her up and said, ‘Okay, I'm worried.’ I did my best to keep her calm, but most importantly, I wanted to be honest with her about what was happening.”

 

Dolan explained that trauma nurses take care of both patients and their families.

“The patient is sometimes the easier of the two,” said Dolan. “Families experience so many emotions, feeling helpless and out of control. As bedside nurses, we are not only sounding boards, translators and advocates, but shoulders to cry on and lean on for support.”

Turner did not speak at the ceremony, but was given a standing ovation when he was called to the stage. Hewlett remembers Turner had the song “You Gave Me Hope” by Wess Morgan playing in his room as he recovered. After his breathing tube was removed while in the hospital, he remembered a lot and asked questions.

We as nurses do what we do and we don't look for thanks or appreciation.

Those were good moments, Hewlett said.

“I enjoy seeing the way we are able to help change someone’s life condition. People are sick and sometimes close to dying. We help to stop that,” she said. “Recognition feels really awkward to be honest. We as nurses do what we do and we don't look for thanks or appreciation. I feel like I should be doing something for Officer Turner, not the other way around.”

 

 

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