Field of poppies

From Pain to Purpose
Story 18

Emergencies are the norm for a day in the life of ICU nurse Kristine Johnson. But when an emergency struck her family just before the holidays 11 years ago, decades of nursing experience didn’t make it any easier.

“My dad called me and said, ‘We’re not going to be able to make it for Christmas, because Mom is in the hospital,’” Kristine recalls. “It avalanched from there.”

Kristine, her mother, and her daughter

Her mother’s health declined rapidly. After surgery, she developed a hospital-acquired infection. “She ended up in ICU, unresponsive, on a ventilator with multiples drips and continuous dialysis,” Kristine shares. “The day she died, we got together and decided to make her DNR.”

While she remembers the emotional pain of this experience, Kristine also remembers the thoughtful actions of one nurse.

“During her shift change, the nurse called me to notify me that it was almost time," Kristine says. "My dad and my sisters went to the hospital, and that nurse stayed after shift change to be with my parents.”

Kristine's mother and father

“My mom was a big part of my life,” Kristine says.

They shared a love of singing, nature and family. The loss of her mom was devastating to Kristine, but in the years since, she says it has added new dimensions of purpose to her work.

Kristine has since earned her master’s degree in nursing. Now, she serves as ICU Educator at Adventist Health Simi Valley, and she says she’s more attuned to the needs of patients and their families than ever before.

“There's a lot of satisfaction when you make someone's life better, either physically or emotionally,” Kristine shares. “I’ve told families before, when they feel bad that they can’t be at the hospital, I’m there for their loved one – and I won’t let anything happen without calling them.”

She adds, “I treat my patients as I would want my father or other family members to be treated, when the time comes.”