While all the other girls in my high school were stressed preparing for their sweet 16, I was handling the stress of preparing for an admission to the hospital. To say living with chronic illness isn’t a struggle would be a lie, but you learn how to adapt when you have no other choice. It was around Thanksgiving in 2005 when I was diagnosed with Lupus (SLE) and Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP). Multiple admissions to and from Cohen Children’s Medical Center along with weekly home infusions would cause any 16-year-old to feel angry and hopeless.
The details of my hospital stay are hard to recall but until this day I have never forgotten how the nurses made me feel. The feeling of vulnerability as a patient is difficult to explain until you have personally experienced it. Lonesome, angry, and hopeless; all words to describe the vulnerability overwhelming my emotions.
During my time of despair, I had encountered a nurse who I will never forget. This nurse didn’t know it, but she had changed my life forever. Maybe it was the way she listened to me, made me feel like I wasn’t alone, gave me support, and hope. She made me laugh, made me forget I was sick, and made me remember that despite my situation, I was still a 16-year-old girl who deserved to have fun and celebrate my sweet 16 like every other girl at school.
There was one thing I knew for sure leaving that hospital: I wanted to make others feel how this nurse made me feel during the hardest time in my life. I wanted to be just like her; it was in this moment that I realized my calling: I’m a Nurse and nothing will hold me back.
Fast forward to 2 years later I started my first position at Northwell’s Plainview Hospital as a patient representative in the admitting and discharge office. I spent 4 years in this position while enrolled at Molloy College for my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. After graduation I continued to work at Plainview as a Registered Nurse for 7 years while simultaneously achieving my Masters Degree as an Adult and Geriatric Nurse Practitioner from Molloy College.
Today as I look back I’m proud to say I have come a long way since I was in that dark, anger filled, hopeless place from 14 years ago. My current role as a Nurse Practitioner is in Palliative Care and I have never felt so much fulfillment in my life.
Being diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses, most of which are considered invisible disease, has forced me to push and work harder in order to achieve the same accomplishments as a healthy individual. I always remember back to when I was 16 and how vulnerable I felt – if I have the power to make just one person feel less vulnerable, advocate for them, decrease their pain, and increase their comfort then I have no other option but to continue my calling. Palliative Care is exactly where I belong because I am able to help those who are like myself. In each and every patient I see a reflection of my 16-year-old self staring back at me.
At the end of the day before I lay my head down to sleep I can say with full confidence that what I do with my life isn’t a job, but a calling. Jobs are made with tasks for people to complete, but callings are for people whose task is never complete. The experience of the care is ongoing and is carried with both the nurses and patient for the rest of their lives. Nursing is my calling. I was Made for this.
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