Nurse of the Week: Flight Nurse Inspires Young Woman’s Career in Nursing After Responding to Her Father’s Fatal Crash

Nurse of the Week: Flight Nurse Inspires Young Woman’s Career in Nursing After Responding to Her Father’s Fatal Crash

Jon Hagen was working a normal Saturday night shift as a flight nurse during Labor Day weekend in 2002 when he and his partner received a call about a rollover accident on a rural highway. They rushed to the scene and airlifted the critically injured man to the nearest trauma center, but the man died just minutes after they arrived at the emergency room. Hagen had worked plenty of other emergency cases before, but something about this one left him feeling haunted.

As a married father of two, Hagen wondered about the family and kids that his deceased patient might have had and decided to Google his name a few days later. After finding an obituary for Tom Procek, a 42-year-old married father of three, he decided to send the family a message and let them know their loved one hadn’t died alone.

Hagen had no idea the effect his gesture had on Procek’s family until over a decade later when Procek’s only daughter, Kelly, returned the favor by finding Hagen’s name online and sent him a touching message via Facebook. Kelly’s note to Hagen was to let him know that his letter to her family about being by her dad’s side in his final moments was what inspired her to go into nursing. She was close with her dad and never got over the fact that they hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye, but it meant the world to her that he didn’t die alone thanks to Hagen. Grateful that her dad had passed away with the people who were trying so hard to save his life inspired her to be that person for someone else.

Since Kelly sent the note to Hagen earlier this year, they have forged a friendship and Hagen now serves as her nursing mentor. Hagen still works full time as a flight nurse, and he and his wife drove down to attend Kelly’s graduation from nursing school in May. Procek is ready to begin her full-time work as a pediatric nurse this month and Hagen is eagerly awaiting stories from her new career.

Nurses come into contact with hundreds of patients and families each year, but they’re trained not to expect much back in return. Hagen and Procek’s bond is a rare one that few nurses get to experience, despite all of the people they treat and influence every day. After excelling in her classes, Procek was chosen as the speaker at her nursing graduation ceremony where she shared the story of how Hagen came into her life and the friendship that they now share because of his caring work as a nurse.

Thank you Jon Hagen, our Nurse of the Week, for serving as a reminder of the profound impact our interactions with patients and their families can have.