Wake County News

WakeMed ICU nurse's legacy lives on after her sudden death

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - In Wakemed’s Cardiovascular Intensive Care unit, doctors and nurses care for some of the hospital’s sickest patients. 

And many patients never forget those who helped heal them.

“I was completely paralyzed. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t breathe on my own,” recalled Laura Finley, who spent four weeks in intensive care suffering from Guillain-Barre syndrome.  

During that time, she says her nurse, Jess Simpson, was not just there for her, but for her distraught husband.


“She was the one who kind of got him through the hardest part of my sickness they had a lot of long conversations,” she said.

That comes as no surprise to other doctors and nurses on the floor, Simpson’s compassion and skills have always been well known among coworkers.  

Dr. Daniel Fox, a pulmonary and critical care doctor, described her as, “great with patients great with families,” and fellow ICU nurse Amos Walker said she had “very much a motherly instinct with all of us.”

She also had a passion for education, and earlier this year Simpson helped implement a system in which a patient’s entire team comes together to discuss care.  

“That was her vision and we're continuing it,” said Amanda Edwards, a critical care PA.

On Feb. 28, Simpson didn’t show up for work.  

Her husband came home and found she had died - unexpectedly, inexplicably. 

“We couldn't help her and that's what we do,” said coworker Lisa Bailey, through tears.  “Not being able to help I think hurt us a lot.”

The loss is staggering to her family – her husband and her two little girls, whom she loved dearly, her patients, and her work family. “We lost a big piece of our unit,” said Bailey.

Her legacy lives on, though.  

Her coworkers say Simpson will always be a part of patient care.  

Her picture hangs in the hallway.

“As I walk past, I tend to say ‘Hello’ as I'm coming and going,” said Walker.

 “She went above and beyond to do her job and make sure we did the best we could,” said Bailey. “Hopefully we continue to push and strive to be the best for her.” 

Simpson’s coworkers set up this GoFundMe page to help her husband and daughters.  

Because Simpson was so passionate about education, they say they’d also like to eventually set up a scholarship fund in her memory.

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