To celebrate Nurses Week, this series, “From One Nurse to Another” shares stories from our very own front-line heroes at CipherHealth — our stellar clinical team — about what they’ve seen in the field and what their fellow nurses mean to them. Here, our VP of Clinical Services, Joy Avery, MSN, RN, shares a deeply personal and heartfelt tribute to her nursing family at NMMC, laced with, of course, much joy. We thought it a fitting post to conclude our series, but not our support of the hard-working men and women on the front-lines showing up to do what they do best during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond: CARE.
COVID-19. Coronavirus. Pandemic. The daily headlines are overwhelming. No matter where you turn, it’s consuming all of us as we fight through together, professionally and personally. Throughout these devastating times, we are seeing so many accolades for our healthcare heroes on the frontlines – battling through minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week. We thank EACH of you for being there for our loved ones and our community.
Nurses are heroes every day, no matter what specialty or path they may take. I once heard someone say, “A nurse is a nurse is a nurse”. This is so far from reality as nurses have a calling to take care of different types of patients and needs, serving throughout the healthcare continuum.
I am a nurse. I am honored to be a nurse. My career over the past three decades has included emergency services. In 1990, I was fortunate to become a flight crew RN for the North Mississippi Medical Center (NMMC) Aeromedical Services Department. The daily routine consisted of putting on a royal blue flight suit with silver reflective stripes and donning an extra 15 lbs. of gear: military boots, radios, pagers, stethoscope, surgical tape, and trauma scissors.
At the beginning of each shift I connected with my flight partner and pilot and headed out to check the helicopter, making sure each piece of equipment was properly set up, safe, and ready to go at a moment’s notice. We were in total control. We worked accidents, strokes, shootings, heart attacks — any emergency that was thrown our way. We trained, worked, planned – we were always ready. We had our protocols, medical controls — nothing scared us. We had the world by the tail. Until one day, I didn’t.
It was January 16, 1999. I was happily pregnant with twins and a due date of May 9, 1999, Mother’s Day. My family and extended EMS, flight, and hospital families were all involved, doing a day-by-day planning of paint colors, furniture, supplies, baby showers, etc. They were everyone’s “babies”. But that Saturday morning, everything changed.
Twenty-three weeks and three days into a perfectly normal twin pregnancy, life as we knew it would never be the same. Without a single hint of trouble lurking, suddenly we were thrown into a world of fear and the unknown. My life was in jeopardy, but even worse, so were the twins’ lives. I was completely out of control. My husband, a firefighter/EMT was out of control. How could this happen? Our lives were in the hands of others — the very same doctors and nurses that I worked with every day on the front lines.
We were in the hospital 16 weeks before I was supposed to deliver. What was happening? With the flight crew (yes, my male pilot), two teams of NICU staff, and the high-risk Labor & Delivery nurses by our side, Karlee Addison and Kasee Madison came into the world early that morning, January 18, 1999 — weighing in at 1 lb., 6 oz. and 1 lb., 9 oz. Micro-preemies on the edge, tubes and machines everywhere, they were heading into the fight of their lives.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever see them, let alone hold them. The journey to come was described to us as “like a rollercoaster, lots of ups and downs throughout their stay, and if they survive (40-50% chance), they have a high probability to suffer multiple challenges. None of this mattered to us at the time. We had hope, and we had a huge team of healthcare heroes there to fight the fight with us every step of the way.
They were there with our babies 24/7, with us every time we needed them, keeping us updated, calling us when things were changing for the better (like when they opened their eyes for the first time!) and the worse (when Kasee had to be airlifted to a children’s hospital for emergency life-saving abdominal surgery). The nurses and respiratory therapist never left them, maintaining that special continuum of care. They knew these babies inside and out. And they provided comfort to us.
During their 103 days in the NICU, the twins frequently needed blood transfusions. Donors came from all over. These girls have blood from pilots, nurses, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, teachers, friends, and family – all heroes came to their rescue.
How to Express Gratitude?
We know the nursing staff and other team members were simply doing their jobs, providing care for the twins throughout multiple seizures, codes, travel, ups and downs during those terrible days. The strength, compassion, expertise, and love of those heroes provided the girls with the best care, while at the same time, helped us keep our sanity during the most desperate times when we were at our most vulnerable. This team is and will always be my personal nursing heroes.
Today, it is with much elation that I can report the girls are happy, healthy, and thriving 21-year-olds – both college honor students. Kasee is entering a career in psychology; and Karlee? Well, she’s planning on becoming a nurse – an emergency/flight nurse. Two more healthcare heroes in the making.
So yes, nurses can have nursing heroes too. We will be forever grateful to these nurses and doctors who were just doing their job – but their jobs are what saved our two little girls. Here is how we thanked them in a letter I wrote to them on the girls’ ninth birthday:
That ‘roller coaster ride’ – as was so well described to us early on in our 103 days of NICU life – was much less horrific than what it could have been only because of each of you! YOU are the reason we have these sweet girls! You not only saved Karlee and Kasee’s lives in the acute phase, but you showed us every day how compassion, caring, competence, faith, hope, and prayer could make such an impact on whatever hand has been dealt. For that, our family will always be grateful!
We have shared our story with so many people just to let the world know that miracles do happen and there are still excellent, caring people in this world…Thanks again from the bottom of our hearts for giving us Karlee and Kasee!!! We will always be in awe of what you do for babies and families every day.
THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR HEALTHCARE HEROES!!
We salute all nurses and appreciate each of you for your service yesterday, today, and beyond.
See all of the tributes from the CipherHealth clinical team in honor of Nurses Week, “From One Nurse to Another”.