Man donates $1 million to honor nurse who saved his life

Following a long bout with COVID-19, Tommy Shaw, a businessman from Maine, recently passed away. His final act was to posthumously donate $1 million to the Maine Medical Center’s burn unit. Shaw’s one stipulation — that the center be named after local nurse Isla Estabrook — originated with a moment of crisis back in 1991.

Estabrook was working at the Maine Medical Center Critical Care Department when she met Shaw all those years ago. Shaw was 23 years old and severely burned from a diesel fire. He lost one of his ears and suffered severe burns to his torso and hand.

“Well, they were pretty bad, but I knew I could take care of him,” Estabrook, now 88, told WMTW.

Shaw spent the next four months hospitalized, but ultimately healed.

“He talked about it often,” Shaw’s wife Susan told WMTW, explaining how Estabrook made a long-lasting impact on her husband. “He really would go into quite detail talking about the nurse that saved his life. He just had a lot of admiration for her, and I think he didn’t want to let her down in the hospital and he just would do what she said.”

Now the medical center’s burn unit has been renamed the Isla Estabrook Burn Center.

“It’s the Isla Estabrook wing,” Susan said. “She saved his life and that’s who it should be and that’s what he wanted absolutely, no doubt. He wouldn’t want his name up there. He didn’t want recognition.”

Shaw’s daughter Cori offered a few words on her first time meeting the health care hero that saved her father’s life all those years ago.

“I grew up hearing the stories about her and how she took care of him,” Cori told WMTW. “He always had a very special place in his heart for her, so when it came out that the money was being donated, I felt very proud – proud of my dad and proud of my family – because it’s where it should be. It’s going to where it should go.”