If you’ve been in the pizza business, it’s doubtful you have ever delivered a three-topping pie that had pepperoni, mushroom and extra gratitude.

That makes for a pretty tasty pizza and that is exactly what patient Stephanie Weis delivered to the nurses at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital.                                            

Health care goes on and the brave and committed providers highlighted for their battle against COVID are also busy healing their non-COVID patients with the same gumption.

Weis was one of the thousands of non-COVID inpatients the nurses of the San Antonio VA have been taking care of throughout the pandemic. It was a tough road for Weis, who wasn’t a registered patient when she came into the emergency room the first time. She was treated and discharged.

After the unfortunate passing of her brother, she was preparing for his funeral when she again fell ill and returned to the emergency room.

Treated for sepsis

On this visit, she wasn’t so lucky and was admitted to be treated for sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s response to an infection and is considered a life-threatening emergency.

Irsel Cortes (left), was one of the nurses that Weis (right) said saved her life as she battled sepsis at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital.

That is where she met nurses, JiJi James and Irsel Cortes.

For the nursing duo, nursing is life’s calling, racking up 31 years of experience between them. Cortes knew early on she wanted to be a VA nurse, inspired by her Veteran grandfather.

But Weis thought it was much more than them doing their job to take care of her. “I felt the need to show my gratitude because I felt they saved my life,” Weis said. That gratitude came in the form of a pizza lunch for the entire team.

James said it is great to be appreciated, and the recognition goes to a team anchored in talent. “Our team’s backbone is a lot of experience and knowledge in the field,” she added.

“We go, go, go all day and night.”

Cortes, who came over from the Frank Tejeda clinic, touted the team’s success, but thinks it came from elsewhere: “The Progressive Care Unit is fast paced. We go, go, go all day and night and the only way to survive is working together because we trust and help each other out.”

Weis said that the last time she interacted with a medical team at a civilian hospital wasn’t good, and she had anxiety after becoming an inpatient. Some of those fears subsided this time when James was placing her IV’s. “She was excellent,” Weis said. “She reassured me and made sure I was calm.”

When Weis returned to the hospital to deliver her grateful gesture, ironically, it took a bit for the pair of nurses to get a break from tending to their current patients.

Once they came into the breakroom, the emotional reunion began and by using misty eyes as a gauge, it was clear there was a connection between patient and provider.

Because of COVID, they kept the meeting to a minimum, but Weis reiterated how much their level of service meant to her.

“Kudos pizza tastier than regular pizza!”

“My goal is to make my patient feel comfortable, trust me with their care and to make the most of their hospital stay,” Cortes said.

Health care is a data-driven industry, but James knows the most important measurement: “Patient satisfaction and appreciation are keys to success, and I was happy to know that Stephanie’s experience at VA was remarkable,” James added.

After Weis had left, and before getting back to work, Cortes reflected on Weis’ gesture: “Kudos pizza was most definitely tastier than regular pizza!”


Steven J. Goetsch is a public affairs specialist for the South Texas Veterans Health Care System in San Antonio.

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