Bittersweet Gratitude

Jordan Langer with Emma Kowieski outside Signe Skott Cooper Hall.
School of Nursing Advancement Manager, Jordan Langer (right), with Emma Kowieski ’22 (left), outside Signe Skott Cooper Hall on June 7, 2023

A Note of Thanks

By Jordan Langer

Photography by Jackapan Pairin

Most phone calls made around 3:14 a.m. hold unexpected news, often delivering heartbreaking information. I received one of those phone calls the morning of May 3, 2023. My dear aunt was undergoing multiple organ failure as a result of health complications that had compounded throughout the previous weeks. I quickly got myself together and made my way to University Hospital.

Disoriented — and slightly lost — I found my way to B4/5, the cardiac ICU, and located several close family members scattered throughout the hallway outside my aunt’s room. I approached my cousins, who looked at me with a combination of despair and relief. Moments later, I found myself entering a dimly lit, cool room to my right. There were monitors, varying sounds and alerts going off in the background, and all I could see was a lifeless body under a pile of tubes, lines, drains, and heating blankets. It was an overwhelming sight, and in that moment I felt helpless. I then noticed a nurse bent over her body, attentively checking one of the lines. As she turned, I immediately recognized the face behind the mask. It was Emma.

Over the course of the next six hours, Emma was there for my family and me, answering questions, listening to concerns, offering support, and making sure we had some semblance of understanding amidst all the chaos and confusion that comes with navigating a health emergency such as my aunt’s.

I first met Emma Kowieski ’22 when she served as a nursing student ambassador during her final year in the traditional bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. In my role as the advancement manager for the UW–Madison School of Nursing, I have the privilege of overseeing the ambassador program, which offers nursing students opportunities to help the School of Nursing through paid student employment positions. This group of outstanding students represents the School in a variety of ways. They provide tours of Signe Skott Cooper Hall, speak to prospective nursing students and families, provide peer advising to pre-nursing students, and conduct outreach to nursing alumni and donors along with a host of other duties.

Emma Kowieski stands at the bedside of a patient.
Emma Kowieski ’22, made an impact in her time as a nursing student at UW–Madison, and continues to change lives in her first year as a Badger nurse.

Emma made such a positive impact on the School of Nursing during her time as an ambassador, and she left big shoes to fill when she graduated. But her support and dedication to the School didn’t stop when she received her diploma. She has continued to stay engaged and gives back through mentoring, volunteering, and promotion of various School of Nursing programming.

An Eau Claire, Wisconsin, native who was born to be a Badger, Emma knew that a career in nursing was the right one for her. “I knew I wanted a career that allowed me flexibility, future adaptability, and the sense that I make a difference,” she said. “Nursing opens countless doors and has allowed me to help others.”

The level of care Emma provides for patients and families reflects the expertise that our Badger nurses exhibit upon entering the workforce. It demonstrates the incredible education our students receive during their time at the School of Nursing. Undeniably, the doors that have opened for her in the first year of her nursing career have allowed her to help others, sometimes in ways she never could have expected.

Seeing Emma during a vulnerable moment for my family and me, and being on the receiving end of her amazing care, brought me peace that could not have come from a different source. The incredible compassion, empathy, and professionalism she displayed helped ease our feelings of helplessness as she provided care during my aunt’s final moments and supported our family through it all. Throughout her first year of the UW Health residency program, Emma has impacted the well-being of countless patients and families just like mine.

Seeing the difference our Badger nurses make in the lives of those they interact with every day first-hand has strengthened my deep commitment to advancing the nursing profession through my own work at the School of Nursing. I have personally experienced Badger nurses changing lives. Words will never be able to express my deepest gratitude, so I will leave Emma with a never ending and heartfelt thank you.