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Staff at St. Mary's Hospital - Janesville make keepsakes for grieving families

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Heartbeat in a bottle

Nurses Make "Heartbeat in a Bottle" For Families

JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Losing a loved one is never going to be easy, but the ICU staff at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital in Janesville hope they can bring a little closure to families with a new keepsake.

Made out of a recycled medicine vial and a strip of paper that archives a patient's heart rhythm before they pass away, the keepsake is a "heartbeat in a bottle."

The ICU staff already provide families with that slip of paper with the heartbeat on it, but the staff wanted to do something more for families because St. Mary's is a a small hospital in an even smaller community, so everyone is very close.

"When we were coming together as a group to kind of decide what we wanted to do for our families, we wanted something that showed that we've put a lot of thought into it, and that the day their loved one passed wasn't just another day for us in the ICU," said Haley Schreiber, an ICU nurse and administrative supervisor at the hospital.

As much as the craft can be a way for families to take a step in their healing process, it's also a way for ICU staff to find a little closure, too. 

"The staff can get to know the patient and the family very well because oftentimes, they're in our ICU for a week or more," said Stacey Woodman, the director of emergency services and ICU care. 

Schreiber says putting the gifts together is also a way for them to take back some control during what has been a very difficult time for medical staff, especially in ICUs.

"This is one of the things that isn't as taxing on us," she said. "We have a lot of tasks that we have to do and that weigh heavily on our mental state and our emotional state. This is one of the things that we can do that kind of like fills that back up a little bit, rather than kind of chipping away every day at our emotions and our mental state."

The ICU team got the idea for "heartbeat in a bottle" from TikTok. 

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