Mary Pigott is the office manager for a family foundation in Seattle, and she loves reading the proposals the foundation receives.

“You learn about amazing people who are doing incredible work,” says Pigott. “Frequently, the biggest thing that makes a difference for them is whether they have access to funds to follow through on some good ideas.”

Recently, Pigott decided to help UW Medicine foster good ideas by creating the Roger K. Giesecke Endowment for Hospital Caregivers in Critical and Acute Care. The fund will support the types of personnel who treated her husband, Roger Giesecke, before he died in May 2008 at the age of 55.

Giesecke, who had hepatitis C, had received a liver transplant at UW Medical Center in March 2008. The surgery went well, says Pigott. Unfortunately, Giesecke developed complications related to the disease, and it was hard to keep him stable. As a result, the couple spent a great deal of time at UWMC.

“I felt so clearly and so strongly that without the incredibly skilled and compassionate care my husband received, his last months would not have been anywhere near as peaceful,” says Pigott.

Lorie Wild, chief nursing officer and senior associate administrator for patient-care services at UWMC, says she was overwhelmed when she heard about Pigott’s gift. The services delivered by nurses and other caregivers are so constant that they can fade into the background, she says. “[This care] is essential, and it really does make a difference to the patient experience,” Wild says. “For her to recognize those contributions, I was just so honored.”

The Giesecke Endowment, which will help provide educational opportunities for staff in critical- and acute-care settings, will benefit both UWMC and Harborview Medical Center. Cynthia Hecker, chief nursing officer for Harborview and senior associate for inpatient operations, is also grateful for the gift. “We don’t always have the ability or the funding to cre- ate some of the programs we’d like to create,” she says, “and this gives us that opportunity.”

The hospitals are making plans for Pigott’s contribution. Hecker is considering using part of the money to fund regular educational retreats, and Wild wants to support training for nurses and other personnel. Both are interested in fostering research projects. For example, says Wild, critical-care nurses at UWMC recently conducted bedside research on temporal artery thermometers; their findings prompted the purchase of easier-to-use, more accurate instruments.

This kind of research, which requires re-evaluating the treatment of patients, is exactly what Pigott envisions. She also remembers overhearing examples of patient-related critical thinking during Giesecke’s long stay at the hospital.

“I heard it in the halls at nighttime a lot,” she says. If staff discovered a flaw in a patient-care protocol, for instance, they’d discuss it, then they’d fix it. With the endowment, Pigott hopes that more hospital staff will have the opportunity to think creatively, to learn and to become even better at taking care of patients.
She also believes the caregivers at both hospitals already earn high marks for quality and caring. That’s why she gave her gift.

“That combination of excellent care and deep compassion for the whole person…it’s what you want for everybody,” says Pigott, “and it’s not something you can take for granted.”

Transplant patient Roger Giesecke was “very comfortable putting his life in [UW Medical Center’s] hands,” says his wife, Mary Pigott. In gratitude for his care, Pigott established a fund for acute- and critical-care personnel at UWMC and Harborview. In this photo, nurse Meegan Wolczyk visits with intensive care unit patient Heidi Baer-Postigo, who traveled from Bolivia to have follow-up surgery at UWMC.