Honey Brook's Hickory House rehab director wins Rehab Servant Heart Award

Colleen Gallagher

One of the most special moments during this year’s Annual Rehab Meeting was the presentation of the Rehab Servant Heart Award.

Each year, the honor goes to a rehab leader (director of rehab, regional rehab director or divisional rehab director) who selflessly gives beyond the call of duty. The corporate Rehab Services department receives the nominations from the field and chooses an extraordinary example of service.

Colleen Gallagher, director of rehab at Hickory House Nursing Home in Honey Brook received the award on May 5.

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Gallagher was a strong support when tragedy occurred at her building; one of the most beloved occupational therapists, Nancy Painter, passed away.

Tina Brouillet, rehab director for the Walden Region shared the moving story in her nomination.

It was a typical day in the gym at Hickory House when Nancy seemed to slouch over. Colleen and her team sprang to action and called a code. CPR was initiated and staff secured the gym to protect the residents from exposure to the event.

Despite huge emotions experienced by Colleen and her staff, she kept the team focused, and Nancy was alive when entering the ambulance. Colleen remained brave and rode with Nancy to the hospital. She made all efforts to reach her two boys, aged 23 and 21, who cared deeply for their mother and still relied heavily on her.

It was Colleen who was there for Nancy’s sons as they received the news that an external pacemaker was not going to work and it was Colleen who supported them through their initial pain and shock brought about by their mother’s passing.

From that point forward, the Hickory House team, under Colleen’s guidance, supported the boys through all of the traumatic next steps. They made sure her beloved animals were cared for and were protective when determining where they would end up residing.

Colleen spoke at the funeral, continuing to honor her teammate and therapist. The funeral took place during a blizzard, and attendance was difficult, so Colleen organized a service at Hickory Housing, inviting the chaplain to speak. Then, with dignity and courage, Colleen spoke beautifully about our OTR Nancy and her passions.

Colleen’s words and the overwhelming support of the team brought the boys comfort. Seeing people who also loved and cared for Nancy and hearing all the things she had done, achieved and supported helped to bring them peace of mind.

We care for many any given day and shoulder many emotional situations, but when a member of our team is unexpectedly involved, emotions are heightened. Colleen led her team with dignity and compassion, allowing room for the grieving process and sharing of emotion, but never once missing a step in quality care and rehab-focused outcomes for the residents entrusted to their care.