By Gloria Kindzeka, RN
Editor's note: The writer is the "2013 Amazing Nurse” of The Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future Amazing Nurse program (www.AmazingNurses.com). She was honored on the Nursing Notes by Johnson & Johnson Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/JnJNursingNotes) and shared her inspiring story with Nurse.com.
I met the little girl who would make a lasting impression on my life the night she was discharged from the hospital after a long stay in the NICU.
Kate was crying when I met her. She had been diagnosed with Pfeiffer syndrome and was experiencing tremendous pain because of orbital pressure. I could see the orbits bulging and knew that continuous crying could exacerbate the situation and result in a serious medical emergency. I prayed to God to give me a healing touch to help her avoid another long hospital stay so she could enjoy being at home with her family.
I’m originally from Cameroon, West Africa, and to help calm Kate that night I sang a lullaby in my dialect until she fell asleep. From that day forward this became our regular bedtime routine.
The first two years were very difficult. Kate was in and out of the hospital quite often for therapies, medical emergencies and other medical procedures. Her medical team was not sure she would survive, or whether she would be able to eat or walk if she did survive.
It was an indescribable experience as a mother and a nurse to watch Kate’s mother listen and digest all the information from the physicians, most of which was not positive. I offered her my unwavering support, encouragement and positive thoughts during these dark periods. Although I showed a brave face while working with Kate and her family, I cried in the car on my way home every day for the first two weeks.
Together, Kate’s mom and I spent many hours researching Kate’s rare genetic condition. We became better educated on treatments and discovered a number of support groups. Kate’s mother was determined that her daughter would beat the odds, and I promised myself that I would do everything I could to take care of Kate and help her reach her fullest potential. As a nurse, I felt this was my purpose and why I was sent to work with Kate and her family.
Despite Kate’s numerous complex medical needs, she is a hero who bounces back from every surgery like a fighting champion. I have seen her come out from a major cranial vault surgery, cut from ear to ear, and be discharged after only three days. With her eyes shut and her head swollen to twice its regular size, she attended all scheduled therapies, ate and walked, even when she was supposed to rest and remain relatively inactive.
Kate, now age 4, continues to meet every challenge head-on. She has refused to use any adaptive equipment, even though her elbows are fused. She attends school daily, participates in community activities and sports, and travels everywhere with her family. Kate has learned to eat by mouth and drink with a straw, which is uncommon for a child with a tracheostomy tube. She does all these things because she has a strong spirit and is determined to live happily and fully.
Through Kate, I have learned to find beauty in challenging circumstances. I’ve learned that every child has special gifts and possesses the ability to overcome tough conditions. I am more appreciative of the things I took for granted in life.
On a personal level, it’s satisfying to know that I contributed to improving the health and well-being of my patient. The best way to explain it is through the “Hierarchy of Needs: A Theory of Human Motivation,” developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow. Through nursing, I feel like I have reached the fifth stage, self-actualization, which means “attaining one’s full potential as a human being living in the world.”