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The Tidelands Health Newsroom

Published on September 01, 2016

Tidelands Health nurse assistant takes care to a whole new level

 August 31, 2016

She was a young nursing assistant, eager to make the most of a career that would make a difference in the lives of her patients.

Barely six months into her job on 2 East at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital, Danielle Bonelli was assigned to care for an elderly woman. Her patient didn’t stay long. Turns out, she didn’t stay out of the hospital long, either. Within two weeks, she has been readmitted, brought in by a home health aide concerned that she was unable to live independently.

Bonelli was charmed by her twinkling blue eyes and her feisty spirit. But it was what she didn’t have that caught her attention:  Family, friends and a support system. “Day after day, she was alone. She had no visitors and no family, and she had no place to go,” Bonelli says.

 And so she remained in the hospital while the hospital’s case management team searched for a solution.  

Bonelli was assigned once more to her. And that’s when the meaning of care rose to a whole new level. “I’d ask her how her day was, and we’d talk,” Bonelli says. “I learned that she was a military wife and had traveled with her family. She’d been a teacher. She loved to paint shells and make ornaments, and she loved to cook.”

Sometimes Bonelli would sneak her chocolate. “Milky Ways and Almond Joys were her favorites,” she says. “Then I started bringing her other things -- a fake plant to brighten up her room, some gowns.” 

Bonelli could tell she was a proud woman who treasured her independence and wanted to look nice, so she brought her lipsticks, pink frost and natural with a hint of pink, her favorite color. “She didn’t want to be treated like a patient, and she loved the way I combed her hair. She was every inch a lady.”

Their friendship blossomed, and then her patient asked Bonelli to bring scissors and cut her hair. “Of course, I couldn’t,” Bonelli says. “She laughed and said, ‘if you can bring me chocolate, you can bring me scissors!’ ”

Knowing how a cut and style can lift a girl’s spirits, Bonelli asker her clinical director, Linda Gilhuly, for permission to take her patient to get her hair styled. Gilhuly went to the patient’s physician and  got the OK.

Bonelli and Gilhuly set the appointment at Taylor and Company in Surfside Beach. But they didn’t stop with a salon visit. On the day of the outing, Bonelli arrived early to help her patient pick out her sportiest outfit, white slacks and a floral print top. Then she surprised her by painting her nails (pink, of course.)

Less than two hour later, her patient emerged from the salon with  a bouncy new cut that set those eyes to twinkling even more brightly.  Then it was on to lunch at Inlet Crab House.  Later, Gilhuly and Bonelli gave her a photo collage of the day.

Bonelli says it’s situations like this that confirm she made the right decision to leave a retail job and go into health care. “I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” she says. “It doesn’t take anything from our lives to offer someone the comfort and companionship they deserve.  If I have time to talk with someone and listen, of course I’ll do so. After all, one day I’ll be there.”

Gilhuly says Bonelli went far above and beyond in caring for her patient’s needs. But it’s not the first time. “She’ll decorate patients’ rooms or even their IV pole or wheelchair if they’re having a birthday. She’s always looking for ways to brighten someone’s day. That means a lot to our patients and to us to have someone on 2 East who understands how meaningful these small touches can be.”

(NOTE: Bonelli’s patient has been released to an assisted living facility, where she has already made friends.  Bonelli visited her and took her chocolate, peanut butter crackers and flowers for her new room.)  


Tidelands Health is the region’s largest health care provider and MUSC Health affiliate, serving the Carolinas at four hospitals and more than 70 outpatient locations. More than 2,500 employee, physician and volunteer partners work side by side with our communities to transform the health of our region – promoting wellness, preventing illness, encouraging recovery and restoring health.