Wisconsin-Labor Day Weekend, flight nurse Jon Hagen received a call that a vehicle had rolled over on the highway. Hagen immediately flew to the scene along with his partner. The victim was a critically injured man around the same age as Hagen. They rushed him to the closest trauma hospital.
In trauma nursing, you become immune to the injuries that you witness and you often see people taking their last breath. In order to survive these events you have to be able to forget about them when they're over.
But we are all human and sometimes certain cases can't be erased from our memory and we stress over them later.
This was one such case for Joh Hagen. The patient died just a few minutes after reaching the emergency room.
Hagen is married and had two kids.
He admitted that "For some reason, this one stuck. Here's a guy that's I don't know how far from home, traveling alone ... You think about that and you wonder if they had a family, kids, what they were doing."
A few days after the case Hagen contacted the family through Google. After a search, he found an obituary online for 42-year-old Tom Procek. He was a married father of three. Hagen took the opportunity to send his condolences to the family and mention that Mr, Proceks was not alone when he passed.
Hagen then went on his business of what he does best, flight nursing.
It wasn't till several years later that Hagen realized the impact of the small message he sent to that family. His message provided comfort to the Procek's family in their time of need and for many years.
Procek's daughter, Kelly found Hagen in the same manner that she had found them years ago. She Googled Hagen's name found him on Facebook and sent him a message.
"I wanted you to know that you and the work that you do inspired me to go back to school for nursing ...Throughout my school when we are asked why we wanted to go into nursing, I go back to the letter that you wrote our family about being by my Dad's side in his final moments. It meant the world to me that he wasn't alone. My Dad and I were very close and it still upsets me that we never were given the chance to say goodbye but thankful that he was with the people that were trying their hardest to save him. It inspired me to be that person for someone else."
Kelly Procek, 32, and Hagen, 57 have become great friends. Hagen attended Kelly's graduation in May and mentored her through the entire experience. He gave her tips and inspiration to pass her board certification.
Hagen is still a flight nurse and Procek is now a pediatric nurse. Hagen is excited to offer her encouragement on her new journey and is looking forward to all the stories she can share with him about her experiences.
"I think it was just real brief ... just something acknowledging their pain, and that we were with him. Hagen said I think people want to know, no matter how bad it is, that he mattered to somebody, he didn't die alone. That we tried."
Kelly Procek had a very close relationship with her father. According to Kelly, her dad used to drive her to dance practice and swerve the car to purposely cause Kelly's makeup to be a mess.
Once he grounded her and removed all four tires from her car and sat it on cinder blocks so she couldn't drive it.
On the weekend prior to the accident, Tom Procek helped his daughter move into an apartment near Heartland Community College. Kelly was with friends on Aug. 31 when she received a phone call from a police officer who told her that her father had passed away.
The family were in shock and had so many questions about the accident and their beloved family member. One of the questions was: did he suffer or die alone.
Hagen's timing couldn't have been better when he contacted the family.
Kelly Procek recalled, "We couldn't be there, but to hear from somebody who was there, somebody who cared, provided me with a tiny bit of closure."
Following the death of her father, Kelly Procek struggled to find her way in life. She married and had two children. For a while, she worked for a friend's event planning business.
Finally, it dawned on her, what she was born to do. She remembered how Hagen had helped her family through such a devastating time and the comfort he offered them. She also remembered the wonderful experience childbirth was and how great the nurses were. It became a no-brainer that she opted to go to nursing school .
She spent four years slaving away at college to earn her degree. The all too familiar story of her husband bartending to make ends meet and rushing home to be a mother to your two children that needed baths, help with homework, dinner, and lunches made for the following day.
Procek grades were excellent and she earned the distinction of high honors.
Now friends with Hagen on Facebook Procek sent her mentor a message.
Hagen said "It touched my heart. That's kind of why you do what you do."
Because Procek had earned such high academic honors she was chosen to speak at the graduation. Hagen agreed to pin her at the ceremony and Procek told the crowd of hundreds of people about her friendship with Hagen and how it came to be.
"No matter where we go in our careers, always remember that our job won't always go smooth or be enjoyable. It won't always be clean or stress-free. But it will always have purpose,"Procek announced "Be that person for someone. Go that extra step."
"I think that ultimately he's an inspiration of an amazing nurse," she said. "Just going into it, I hope I can somehow pay that forward."