PITTSFIELD — Travel nurse Rebecca Whitehead once used her own money to buy a severely burned patient something special to wear for her sister’s wedding, and then arranged for the ceremony to be held in her patient’s hospital room.
For this, Whitehead in 2018 won The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.
Now Whitehead’s travel nurse colleagues at Berkshire Medical Center — still reeling from her death in a Sept. 10 crash in Ashfield — are raising money in her honor for The DAISY Foundation, which provides grants and a number of benefits to nurses who win the award.
Whitehead, 53, was killed instantly in a head-on collision with a pickup truck while en route to Greenfield. She was headed to the Franklin County Fair to support a BMC co-worker whose band was playing there.
Luci Acosta, a friend and operating room travel nurse at BMC who trained Whitehead, said her sudden death has left them all in shock.
Searching for a way to honor and remember her, they decided to raise the money to honor nurses who give so much of themselves — and then some.
“We all are heartbroken. We’re still recovering,” Acosta said. “We’ve become a really tight family. She had no husband or kids so she really depended on us.”
She said Whitehead was one of many travel nurses at BMC who come from other states, and make up most of the operating room nursing staff. Many of them, like Whitehead, live in hotels.
Acosta said Whitehead is originally from Mississippi, and had been living in Winston-Salem, N.C. She had four older brothers, Acosta said.
On her days off, she worked in the kitchen at Holiday Inn cutting vegetables for large events.
DAISY is an acronym for “diseases attacking the immune system.” A family started the nonprofit in memory of their son, who died of an auto-immune disease. His parents witnessed the dedication of a team of compassionate, skilled nurses who tended to him.
The nonprofit’s mission is to inspire more acts of great nursing, as well as compassion in health care overall.
Acosta said Whitehead embodied this.
“We just want to spread her legacy,” she said.