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No matter how busy or stressful the day, Hilton Head Hospital registered nurse Kelly Kulas always has a big smile on her face.
And it is that smile that constantly lifts the spirits of coworkers and patients and their families, her colleagues say.
Kulas, who works in the cardiac catheterization lab, won the hospital's second DAISY Award, which recognizes nurses for the work they do each day as "unsung heroes."
The award, presented Wednesday, is sponsored by the national DAISY Foundation, established by family members in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, who died at age 33 from complications of an auto-immune disease in 1999. DAISY stands for Diseases Attacking the Immune System.
Beth Gasiorowski, hospital director of risk management, nominated Kulas after observing her during a busy day at the hospital.
Twenty-one other nurses at Hilton Head Hospital also were nominated.
"From start to finish, Kelly used the skills and demeanor which we hope all of our nurses will have," Gasiorowski said. "She showed compassion with the patients, even those she was not caring for, and their families. ... Kelly did all of this while never getting rattled, despite being busy.
"And, Kelly did all of this with a big smile."
Tena Barnes Carraher, wife of the late Patrick Barnes, presented Kulas with the award, along with a bouquet of daisies and a "healer's touch" statue carved by a tribe in Zimbabwe.
"Nurses made all the difference in our experience," Carraher, foundation co-founder and vice president, said. "They were the ones who explained things to us in simple terms, held our hands and did things for Patrick to make him more comfortable in his final days. They became our rock. They made the unbearable bearable, and are seldom recognized for the super-human work they do."
Kulas said she's just doing the job she loves.
"I feel like I don't deserve it, because I don't feel like I did anything special," she said. "I feel like that's what I'm supposed to do. ... It reminds you how important your job is as a nurse."
More than 1,300 health care facilities across the world give their nurses DAISY Awards, according to Carraher. Locally, the award has been given at both Beaufort Memorial and Coastal Carolina hospitals. More than 35,000 nurses have received the award and more than 200,000 have been nominated, according to Carraher.
"So many times nurses do things they don't get thanked for," she said. "This is a time to thank them and let all nurses know they are making a difference each day they come to work."