HARLINGEN — Susana Ruiz enjoys working in the operating room.

The procedures taking place at Harlingen Medical Center’s OR are serious, and Ruiz empathizes with the stress of her patients. She appreciates the attention she can give them.

“What I enjoy the most is dedicating our 100 percent attention to the patient,” she said. “We get one patient at a time and we get to focus on that one person.”

Perhaps this outlook explains why Ruiz received the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses yesterday for the hospital’s third quarter.

“I was surprised,” she said, becoming emotional for a moment.

“I was thinking, ‘I don’t think OR is getting an award,’” said Ruiz, 46.

The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses has been adopted by health care facilities around the world to celebrate nurses for their extraordinary care and compassion, stated a press release. Nurses may be nominated by patients, families and colleagues.

Ruiz received a certificate commending her for being an “Extraordinary Nurse.” She also received a DAISY Honoree pin and a statue titled “The Healer’s Touch.”

Martin Cisneros, LVN, received the same award for HMC’s first quarter, and RN Monica Mark received the award in the second quarter. Both work in the “Med-Surg” Unit at HMC.

Patients in the operating room seldom remember the nurses attending them, and of course Ruiz understands that. It’s a very frightening time for them, and their minds are elsewhere.

But one patient, Jean Dunn, did remember what Ruiz did for her when she came in for orthopedic surgery, and she nominated her for the award.

In the nomination, Dunn spoke about a friendly but tired staff that had been working that whole day in September.

“Susie was with me as they rolled me into the OR,” Dunn wrote. “I could have hugged her neck that night when she continued to put her patient first. She politely and firmly told the CRNs that they needed to put me to sleep right on my bed because moving me would hurt.”

Ruiz sees so many patients she had difficulty remembering Dunn as a patient, even when they saw each other Friday at the presentation.

“I was looking at her and thinking, ‘She looks familiar, maybe she was my patient,’” she said.

She pointed out, however, that people look very different when they’re preparing to undergo surgery, far dissimilar from how they look in social gatherings. She was glad to see Dunn in such a positive setting and that she’d helped get her there.

“I always want to treat patients the way I would want to be treated,” she said. “Each of us employees, we know what’s going to happen.”

Patients, however, usually don’t know — and the unknown scares them.

OR Director Julie Bannert congratulated Ruiz for the recognition.

“I have known Susie for 20 years,” she said.

“She was my boss in Brownsville,” interjected Ruiz.

“She’s absolutely been a great nurse and a great patient advocate,” Bannert said.

Dedication, compassion, sincerity, all of these are hallmarks of fine nursing. But Dunn pointed something else out about Ruiz’s care for her: courage.

“She stood up for me when I was in no condition to speak up,” Dunn wrote. “Thank you for being there that night.”

What is DAISY?

It is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System. The DAISYFoundation was formed in November, 1999, by the family of J. Patrick Barnes who died at age 33 of complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). The nursing care Patrick received when hospitalized profoundly touched his family.