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  • Wrapped in warmth: One family’s patient warming story

    By Janna Fischer, 3M Storyteller

    “You should have seen the look on her face when they turned that thing on.”

    • Jim Branch lovingly describes his mom, Leslie, as a “humble, middle-America lady.”

      She was married for 61 years to her husband, Bob, and together, they raised five children in a small town outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    • Photo of Leslie Branch

      Jim was there when his mom’s health began to fade and was by her side throughout her final days.

      After they retired, Leslie and Bob became snowbirds, spending their summers in Michigan and their winters in Florida. Leslie reveled in the warmth of the Sunshine State. She always loved a good warm blanket, a sunny porch or a hot bath – so, to Leslie, Florida was a perfect escape from the cold Michigan winters.

      On the day Jim was planning to drive his parents down south for the winter, Leslie wasn’t feeling well, so they instead drove straight to the hospital. They wouldn’t make it to Florida after all. With complications of advanced stage kidney disease and a weak heart, Leslie began a very rapid decline.

      “Throughout the entire hospitalization process, my mom just could not get herself warm,” says Jim. “The hospital staff were so kind. They brought her heated traditional blankets – even four or five at a time – but she could not warm up. She desperately wanted to go home and take a long, hot bath.”

      As her condition worsened, Leslie was transferred to the intensive care unit at another Grand Rapids-area hospital. It was there that one of the ICU nurses wheeled in what looked like a vacuum cleaner and a hose, and pulled out an inflatable-looking blanket. Jim and his family had no idea what it was, but the nurse assured them that Leslie would absolutely love it.

      Turns out it was a special patient warming blanket that’s typically used to help patients maintain normal body temperature before, during and after surgery. And the nurse was right, Leslie loved it.

      “You should have seen the look on her face when they turned that thing on,” says Jim. “She looked like she was swimming in a Jacuzzi. We were teasing her about being at the spa – it literally looked luxurious to her. She was so comfortable, so happy.”

      Leslie passed away the next day.

      “That blanket created a very meaningful, wonderful moment for our entire family,” says Jim. “Having watched our mom shiver for two weeks – despite bringing her clothing, socks and blankets – and not being able to help her get warm; and then to see how quickly she was able to recover inside of that blanket, and to see the joy it brought her. It meant the world to all of us.”