One of the best parts of Kaylee Guevara’s job, she says, is how the patients and their relatives she sees every day become like family to her.
Guevara has worked as a registered nurse at St. Luke's Children's Treasure Valley Pediatrics in Meridian for more than five years. This past spring, one of those special families faced an incredible hardship, and even if it was a small act, Guevara made a profound impact on Cynthia Emry.
Emry’s husband, Christian, battled cancer for more than a year, but the treatment left his liver and kidneys ravaged. He was unable to get a transplant, and he was transferred to hospice care. He died at home in April.
“My husband and I, we prayed for him. It was just heartbreaking because it’s such a great family,” Guevara said. “It’s life-changing. We felt it in our hearts, too. After he passed away, I was looking forward to seeing Cynthia and those kids again to let them know how much we care, that we’d do whatever we could to help.”
It turns out there was something she could do, but in an unexpected way.
Christian Emry was a veteran who had served in the United States Marine Corps and the Navy. After his funeral, Cynthia was given the customary folded American flag.
“It was done so beautifully,” Cynthia said. “And after we got home — a pretty incredible thing (happened) — my then-4-year-old son proceeded to unfold it and took a nap with it over him.”
The Emrys, who married in 2015, raised six children — three older (30, 25, 23) and three younger (7, 5 and 4). After a routine visit to the pediatric clinic soon after Christian’s funeral, Cynthia told Guevara the story.
“I told her, ‘I have this beautiful flag, but I have no idea how to fold it back like they did,’” Cynthia said. “And Kaylee goes, ‘Oh, my husband can totally do that!’”
Guevara’s husband, Jay, has been in the Idaho Air National Guard for nearly 20 years, including an 18-month deployment to Afghanistan from 2019-21.
“He had done it before. He’s folded them for some of the people he flew with when he was deployed, so I didn’t think twice when I heard her say that,” Guevara said.
So, Cynthia brought the flag to the clinic a few days later, and Guevara brought it home to have Jay fold. After he returned the flag to its pre-nap shape, it was ready to be back home. Cynthia displays it prominently in their house with photos and Christian’s service medals.
“It was so thoughtful … she always goes above and beyond, regardless of why we’re there,” Cynthia said. “She didn’t have to offer that, and her husband, he certainly didn’t have to. It was one more thing I didn’t have to worry about, and it was just so awesome.”
Guevara certainly has a connection to help fellow military and veteran families — she has in the past brought meals to families who have had a parent deployed.“It made my heart full when I realized what it meant to Cynthia and her family,” Guevara said. “When that happens, you take a step back and see the whole picture.
Cynthia has said though the past six months have been hard, the love from around the community has helped. The teachers at her children’s school, St. Ignatius in Meridian, attended Christian’s funeral. One of their adult children is an Army veteran, another currently serves in the Navy. Their daughter is set to graduate in December from the nursing program at the College of Western Idaho.
Her daughter had mentioned nominating Guevara for a DAISY Award, which “celebrate(s) the extraordinary compassion nurses provide their patients and families every day.” Guevara was given the award in October, soon after returning to work — she acted as a surrogate and delivered in August.
Colleagues, including the Emry family’s pediatrician, Dr. Khristine Miller, were on hand to celebrate.“Kaylee and Dr. Miller, they’re just amazing people – and they’re like part of the family now. They’re stuck with us,” Cynthia said with a laugh.
Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.