Six thoughtfully composed photographs and a compassionate care team provided comfort to Gina Hill, a grieving mother coming to terms with the passing of her 17-year-old son, Trevor Hill. The photographs, taken at his bedside while he was on life support, show her hands holding his.
For two weeks, Trevor fought for his life in the UF Health Shands Neuro Intensive Care Unit after an accident.
“While he was on life support, my mom never wanted to let go of his hand,” said Trevor’s older brother, Colby Hill, P.C.A., UF Health Shands Hospital Medical/Surgical Unit 65 patient care assistant.
Colby and his mother commuted two hours daily from Chiefland so that she could interlock fingers with her youngest son, who was affectionately known in his family as a “momma’s boy.”
Letting go for Gina seemed impossible until Olivett Underwood-Mobley, LCSW, UF Health Shands Patient and Family Resources social worker, thought of a way to help. Mobley told her about a new UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine service that allows a patient’s family to have memorable photos taken with their hospitalized loved ones at the end of life.
“When I told Ms. Hill about it, it was as if a lightbulb went off,” Mobley said. “This program would allow her to always have a piece of him and remind her of the importance of holding his hand.”
With Gina’s permission, Mobley connected with John Kieslich, AIM operations assistant. A professional photographer wasn’t available, so Kieslich contacted Lauren Arce, R.N., M.S.N., C.N.L., O.C.N., ACN-BC, AIM and UF Health Integrative Medicine nurse coordinator. Arce arranged to come to the hospital on her day off to photograph the Hill family.
Arce enjoys photography as a hobby, but was anxious about taking photos for the family. She decided to use her iPhone and set her nerves aside to capture the intimate photos and help bring some much-needed peace to Trevor’s family.
Arce, Mobley and Kieslich — along with Trevor’s medical team of physicians and nurses — all contributed to honoring Trevor in his final hours and helping his loved ones through this final and heart-wrenching step to let go.
“At one point, Trevor’s mother stated that her hands were shaking, but my hands were shaking just as much,” Arce said. “The entire experience was so exquisite — you could see the love in their family.”
As a patient care assistant, Colby sees families cope with illness and death, but it’s a different matter when you are a member of the patient’s family.
“It was a struggle to come back to work,” Colby said, “but now it’s an honor.”