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Dorothy's Christmas Story

Updated: Feb 27

This is a story that I went back and forth on whether or not to include in my book. It's a most remarkable story, a Christmas miracle. Like all the others I wrote about, I'll never forget Dorothy, she was a very special patient. Here's her story...

A photo of Santa making a heart with his hands.

Dorothy Daley was a patient on that infamous telemetry unit where I spent the earlier years of my career. It was probably the mid-1990s when she had become like a resident with us. She had been in room 424 for so long that I thought she should have a mailbox outside of her room!

Dorothy was probably in her late sixties or early seventies. Average in stature with bleached blonde hair, she had a most unassuming face. She was always an agreeable patient, never demanding. She was the one you were happy to be assigned to. Dorothy was with us for a long time on that cardiac unit as she waited for a suitable heart donor. Because her heart failure was so severe, Dorothy was dependent on the medication known as Primacor. And because the Primacor had to be administered via a continuous IV drip, she was stuck there until she could receive a heart transplant. She became one of us.

Primacor is the brand name for Milrinone, which is a phosphodiesterase inhibitor that increases the heart's contractility and decreases pulmonary vascular resistance. It also causes vasodilatation which helps alleviate increased pressures (afterload) on the heart, thus improving pumping action. It's been used for years in patients with heart failure; I was surprised to see that it's still in use! However, studies now suggest that the drug may exhibit some negative side effects, so there has been some debate about its use clinically. But at that time, the continuous IV Primacor drip was Dorothy's lifeline.

Day in and day out we waited for any news of a donor for Dorothy. But none came.

Until one evening when the news came suddenly and unexpectedly—on Christmas Eve!

I don't know who was more excited, the nursing staff or Dorothy herself! I even wrote a poem about it that went something like this:

Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house,

not a staff member was stirring, not even Nurse Crouse.

We were huddled together because charting did matter,

when up on the heliport, we heard such a clatter.

Twas the whirring of the chopper to take Dorothy away,

she was off to USC for surgery that day.

We bundled her up for her ride on the sleigh,

which served as medical transport and we all said, "Hooray!"

After she left, we knew that was it,

so, we all went back to cleaning up ... well, you get it.

As goofy as the poem was (and still is), that Christmas Eve was a Christmas miracle because Dorothy did get her new heart! What surprised us even more, was that she was discharged from USC much sooner after a heart transplant, than our cardiac bypass patients were! I had lunch with Dorothy several weeks after her surgery, and although she looked quite puffy from all the anti-rejection meds, overall, she was doing quite well. Like any other transplant patient, she was required to take immune suppressant medicines to reduce the risk of her body rejecting the new heart. But she didn't mind, she was just so thankful to have received a new heart for Christmas!

*For another Christmas miracle, check out Raywood's Story in

Off the Chart A Nurse's Journey of Heart and Humor at

Published by Jennifer Tipton / This post may contain affiliate links.

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Dec 20, 2023

Great story

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