Medicine nurses honor a hero


Nurses from the Medicine Shared Governance cluster recently presented patient Walter Fritsch with a special photo of his favorite professional wrestler, John Cena. From left are Cameron Maselli, RN; Rae Fritsch; Rosa Mascola, RN; and Shakinah Flowers, patient care associate.

A lot of patients consider Yale New Haven Hospital staff heroes for the care they provide. Nurses with YNHH’s Medicine Shared Governance cluster recently showed one long-term patient that the feeling is mutual.

This holiday season, they presented Walter Fritsch, a 53-year-old patient on the EP 10-7 Medicine unit, with a special gift: a certified sports memorabilia picture of his hero, professional wrestler John Cena.

Walter has spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spinal cord and can cause serious problems with mobility, brain function and infections, along with other complications. When he was 3 months old, his mother, Rae, was told he wouldn’t survive, but Walter was able to grow up at home and graduated school at age 16. He worked for years through SARAH, a group of agencies that provides programs and services for people with disabilities.

“We consider Walter our hero,” said Shelley Harrigan, RN, transitional care coordinator in the Adult Primary Care Center on the York Street Campus, and a Medicine Shared Governance cluster member. “Despite the many challenges he’s faced, he has accomplished so much, and is always ready with a smile.”

EP 10-7 staff see that smile frequently while caring for Walter, who has pulmonary problems that prevent him from speaking and require him to be on a ventilator. His mother, Rae, helps care for him every day. She praises the physicians and staff who have helped her son and supported her and her family over the years.

Lisa Rioux, RN, 10-7 patient service manager, said the family inspires her and her staff.

“They truly are the heroes,” she said.