‘Beyond the call of duty’

April 23, 2018

When Scott Howell brought his wife, Barbara, to the Novant Health Rowan Medical Centeremergency room in October 2017 for shortness of breath related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), he didn’t know he was getting ready to make a friend for life.

But critical care nurse Morgan Earnhardt was about to enter Scott and Barbara’s lives in a profound way, one that made them feel like she was more than simply an expert care provider – she was also like a trusted family member.

“Morgan was a godsend. She went above and beyond the call of duty,” Scott said. “Barbara ended up staying in the ICU for two and a half months, and Morgan basically just took over care of her. Every day Morgan was working at the hospital, she’d be there with Barbara. She explained everything the doctors said, and answered all our questions. She helped me with the insurance paperwork. She even came to visit with us on her days off.”

Morgan’s care didn’t end there. Knowing Barbara would be in a wheelchair when she returned home, she asked Scott if they had a handicap ramp. When she found out they were planning to build one but hadn’t started it yet, she  reached out to her boyfriend.

“I told Travis, ‘We need to build a ramp, and we need to have it done before Dec. 22, because that’s when Barbara is going home,’” Morgan said. Travis and his church members swung into action and built the ramp on Saturday, Dec. 16.

Morgan showed Scott and Barbara pictures of the finished ramp while Barbara was still in the hospital, and they were both very excited. “Barbara couldn’t really talk at that time because of her condition, but when she saw pictures of the ramp, she grinned from ear to ear,” Scott recalled.

Inspired by Morgan’s kindness and generosity, the Howell family made a donation to the Rowan Medical Center Foundation’s Guardian Angel program in her honor. This program allows grateful patients to recognize the special people who have provided remarkable care by making a gift in their name.

In February, Morgan received a recognition letter and a guardian angel wings pin to wear on her ID badge. Her name will soon appear on the recognition wall in the lobby area at Rowan Medical Center.

“All the nurses were great, my wife’s doctor was great,” Scott said. “But Morgan is special. She does an awesome job, she’s A+.”

Morgan felt the same way about Scott and Barbara. “Some patients you really just click with, and Barbara was one of those patients,” Morgan said. “I don’t know what it was about those two, but they drew me in like a magnet.”


Barbara Howell passed away in early February 2018, but Scott and Morgan are still in each other’s lives.

Scott texts Morgan to check in, visits her at the hospital every couple of weeks, and regularly brings food to Morgan and some of the other nurses who helped care for his wife.

“Morgan became like family,” Scott said. “I’ll stay in touch with her for the rest of my life.”