A local businessman donated $1 million from his estate to Maine Medical Center’s burn unit. The caveat? The burn unit would be named after Isla Estabrook, the nurse he credited with saving his life in the 1990s.
Isla Estabrook is a nurse who dedicated her life to others. After having 7 children, she decided to attend nursing school at age 40. In the 1970s, the dean didn’t want to let her in, but Isla didn’t let that stop her. Instead, Isla showed up every day at 5:00 am to tell the dean she wanted to attend the nursing program. Eventually, she was admitted and finished the program at age 43.
After graduation, Isla worked for several years in Maine Medical Center’s critical care unit. In 1991, Tommy Shaw was admitted to her unit after a diesel fire left him with severe facial and upper torso burns. During his months-long hospital stay, Estabrook clearly made an impact.
Tommy’s family often heard about the nurse who saved his life, both physically and mentally. Shaw’s wife, Susan, stated that Tommy “didn’t want to let her down in the hospital, and he just would do what she said.” The pair lost touch over the years, but Tommy never forgot Isla. He died in January 2022 as a result of COVID complications.
Isla retired in 1999 and, now age 88, lives with her daughter Lynne Bushway. Her tenacious spirit shone through in an interview with the local news. As her daughter expressed appreciation for physicians but stated that nurses ‘are’ the hospital, Isla piped in, “They don’t do anything,” with a laugh.
When was the last time you entered a hospital unit that was named after a nurse? Most of the time, the most generous donor gets their name on the door. Tommy Shaw’s family states he never wanted that type of recognition. Instead, he wanted the honor to go to the nurse who stayed with him through recovery, encouraging him to heal.
In a press release, Maine Medical Center states, “The gift from Tommy Shaw’s estate comes at a time of financial challenge for MaineHealth, and will help the Isla Estabrook Burn Center advance the care of serious burns, keeping more Mainers in the state for their care.”
The Isla Estabrook Burn Center cares for approximately 180 inpatients annually, manages 500 outpatients, and provides follow-up services. The gift will help patients receive state-of-the-art care close to home.