Five Savannah-area nurses share some of their most memorable experiences. As one of them comments: "Every day is a new adventure."
In some professions, you want repeat customers. The medical profession is not one of them. If you’re in healthcare, you want to see your patients recover, recuperate and get on your way healthier and happier. Wes Jackson (pictured above) had a lot to say about what it is like to not see patients again. “I always say, I hope to see you again, just not at work.” Recalling a chance encounter at the grocery store with a happy, healthy patient he’d admitted with cancer just a year prior is a standout moment for him. “Seeing someone in such critical condition move on to a better life is the best feeling.”
Being a nurse entails many things – an inordinate number of which involve getting up and close with some very icky situations. It is no easy position to be in, but in this line of work, heroism and a strong stomach are just part of the job (sometimes simultaneously). As an LPN, Madison Tyran balances those less-than-glamorous moments with the singular joy of her profession – being there for people when nobody else can. “Sometimes patients don’t have any family so we sit with them and spend time with them like they were a part of our family.”
Kay West has an important perspective on the role of being a nurse. At age 60, following 40 years of nursing, she realized how important it was to take care of herself and decided to make some major lifestyle choices to eat healthier and exercise more. This is true for everyone, but doubly true for nurses who must lead by example. These days, she loves to work out on a spin bike. She knows how important relaxing is to health, as well, as likes to sit on the porch in the evenings, work in her flower garden, or spend time with her grandchildren.
Mary Dunn’s future in medicine was sealed one fateful day in 1989, when her father was struck down by a heart attack. Standing in the emergency room, watching the purposeful precision of the doctors and nurses, Mary thought to herself, “This is what I am going to do.” She was halfway through high school and she’d just made one of the biggest decisions of her life. It’s a decision she’s stuck by. “This is a pretty dirty job. If you can’t get dirty, this isn’t for you.”
Sometimes, working with kids has its benefits. “I basically get to be a big kid all day,” said Lacey Thompson. Decorating the office, wearing funny hats and basically doing anything to get a smile are all part of the job. In pediatrics, you have to care not only for the kids, but sometimes for the parents, too, who need reassurance that they’re doing the right thing. And sometimes, Lacey finds, she is that parent. “My kids don’t even go camping, but if they catch a cold, I immediately think they have a rare disease from fungus. It’s because I have that clinical mindset.” It’s hard to have a bad day when you get to play with and nurture kids as your career.
Working in the ICU isn’t for everyone. Not many can step up in the face of death, sickness, injury and still know what to do without crippling under the pressure. “You have to be kind of crazy, a little weird,” Lyndsey said. “When you’re busy saving lives you don’t get to think about them as a mother or a father.” Just the same, no one, not even a battle-hardened nurse, is immune from humanity. Lyndsey recalls a woman who passed on Thanksgiving of 2016, surrounded by family. Something about her touched Lyndsey. “People die every day, but I cried for her. I’m still in touch with her family even now.”
Gabrielle Lawrence is a nurse that leads by example. “Lifestyle modification improves overall wellness and boosts quality of life.” Realizing what an impact her own health can be on her practice, she is living proof of what discipline and clear goals can achieve. Her positive attitude has proven infectious, and her dedication to physical fitness, exercising three times a week, has shown her patients what can be achieved by hard work. Although she would never use the term role model, it’s certainly something her patients can look to for inspiration as they look to improve their own health.
In their line of work, nurses know there is a possibility that one of their patients will have a serious medical emergency. “We’re fortunate in the Rehabilitation Unit to not have too many scares on the job,” said Beverly Bowen. “One of the toughest days of my nursing career was when I had to use the defibrillator on someone I work with. She collapsed and wasn’t breathing. I jumped into nurse mode, staying calm, but there was a voice in the back of my head freaking out. I will never forget what it felt like to deliver an electric shock to someone I work with every day. When she started breathing again the relief was overwhelming. That experience is one I will never forget”
What we do for a living, if it’s something we consider a calling, leaves a mark on us. In Tracy’s case, that mark was literal, a pinprick that remained of the spot where he’d saved a life. That spot came from a day unlike any other, where a patient was wheeled into the ER with a massive tear in his esophagus. “This guy was bleeding profusely, it was just everywhere,” Tracy said. Banding together, Tracy and his team donated 20 units of blood to keep the patient alive. Some people say they put blood, sweat and tears into their work. Nurses mean it.
Marla Davidson Danis
Marla is no stranger to miracles, or hardship. Having worked in a nursing home, a center for medically fragile children and an elementary school, she’s truly seen it all. Case in point, Marla recalls one nonverbal patient who spilled the beans about her pregnancy through sign language! Only a few months along, Marla had wanted it to be a secret, but the young patient couldn’t help but let everyone know in his own way. Far from being taken aback at her secret get out, Marla was delighted to see the patient come out of his shell.