By Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie AbdullahDecember 11, 2019
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland - Michele Brailo, a critical care nurse at Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC) in Honolulu, Hawaii, was awarded the Military Health System Federal Civilian Nursing Leadership Excellence Award during the AMSUS annual meeting awards banquet on December 5, 2019, in National Harbor, Maryland. Brailo has been in nursing for nearly 30 years and at Tripler since 2014.
"I love what I do," said Brailo. "I'll probably be that 99 year-old lady who just keeps going."
According to Brailo, she spends hundreds of hours each year volunteering at organizations such as the Girl Scouts and the Legacy of Life. She also spends time as the volunteer nurse for schools in the community as well as going around talking to students about the nursing career field.
She is particularly passionate about the Legacy of Life of Hawaii. The organization is one dedicated to saving and healing lives through organ, eye, and tissue donation.
"This is so important. We should all be talking about organ donation," said Brailo. She became passionate about organ donation after a patient's mom asked her for a very special favor. "After her son passed, she asked me if I would accompany him into the operating room to have his organs removed. She wanted him to live on and she donated every organ that she could. His organs helped save the lives of eight people."
Both Brailo's husband and her father served in the Army and now she has a son serving in the Army as well. "There are people who are born to serve," said Brailo. "And there are people who are born with hearts for other things. I was raised to serve my community and to get to know those in my community."
"When someone comes to the hospital in Hawaii, the entire family comes. It could be two people or it could be 50 people. Those people become my family. I'm not just there for the patient. I'm serving the entire family," said Brailo.
One way Brailo serves families at Tripler is through her "bereavement cart". The cart contains a variety of information useful to families going through the loss of a loved one, coffee and tea, as well as a variety of snacks. "It's just something to help the families. You know, help them with next steps... and even help them to not have to run to vending machines," said Brailo.
Brailo is a mother to five children, three of her own and two who joined the family along the way. In Hawaii they are known as "hanai" children. Her hanai son was the friend of her biological son. She noticed that he was having trouble getting to games and activities. His grandmother was raising him. Brailo offered to start picking him up. Soon he was spending the night, she said. Then he was there for all of the holidays. He came when he was 9 or 10 years old. He lived with the family until he finished high school.
Brailo's hanai daughter was being raised by her single mom, with whom Brailo now enjoys a very close kinship. "Her mom had a lot on her plate," said Brailo. "She was having trouble getting her to cheerleading practice and such. One time my daughter asked if she could stay for a while. I thought it was the weekend. She was 12 when she came. She's a cosmetologist now," said Brailo.
Brailo whose husband is disabled, said that she couldn't have chosen a better career field. It's really been integral in how she is able to take care of her family.
She didn't know she was being nominated for the nursing leadership award. "Oh Wow! Is what I thought," she said. "But, it is bittersweet because my sister just passed. But, she was so excited for me about this award. I didn't want to come to the ceremony. I had hoped they'd mail it. But, my sister would have wanted me to be here. I'm happy to be here in her honor," said Brailo.
Brailo is a native of Fayetteville, N.C.