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Heather C.

Family & Caregiver

Inspiration on the Homefront

Sequence of events with my mother and myself leading me up to my decision to return to school for nursing.

I am no stranger to health related issues while growing up with my family. My father is a type one diabetic and became visually impaired due to a mini-stroke when I was sixteen. Also at sixteen my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimers. My other grandfather passed away due to lung cancer when I was small. One of my grandmother's died of viral pneumonia and my other grandmother passed on due to old age. My mother was an emergency room nurse for twenty-eight years. She lived with health crisis's at home and on the work front. She always had stories to tell. My mother remained tough, looked invincible. But looks can be deceiving. On October 1st 2009, the thought to pursue a career in the medical field was inevitable and along with it came a variety of mixed emotions.

My family and I were going to church to take a family photo. And we were acting like our usual selves. Then it came our turn for a photograph. My mother was behind my father and she started clenching his shoulder. After the photographer took the shot, my mother fell backwards. I lifted her up back into a chair and she had a panicked look upon her face. I kept saying to her, "mom, mom"; she was not responding. So I raised my voice and said, "Mom, look at me!" She uttered out, "I feel funny." And then I ran out of the church in a panic. I have never seen my mother look so scared.

Thankfully my sister was able to keep her cool and called an ambulance. The paramedics arrived promptly and took her to Freodert Medical Hospital; she was admitted into the neural intensive care unit. So many questions and thoughts were going through my head. Like: is she going to make it?, or why would any god do this to their people? My thoughts were with my father when the doctor's suggested that he should probably say goodbye to your wife. Needless to say, our family did not sleep much that night.

The next day we found out my mother had a cerebrovascular accident; also known as a stroke. She had bleeding on both sides of her brain; and accomponied with high blood pressure. I found out at a later date that her blood pressure was in the two-hundred's when the paramedics arrived! It looks like her chances of her survival were slim according to the doctors. But to everyone's surprise she lived through it and awoke a couple days later.

The good news is that my mother lived through an ordeal that would normally kill a person. The aftermath of this ordeal is having to watch her fight an emotional and physical war within herself. Physically she is very limited: with partial paralysis on her left side and facial paralysis on the right side. Around christmas time in 2009, I was watching my mother go through a physical therapy session. She was walking in between two bars with assistance from the therapist. Watching her working and trying so hard to regain what was lost makes me proud to have someone as tough as her for a mother. Mentally she is as sharp as she ever was; and is also wiser. It still baffles and impresses me how with it she is mentally. One time a friend and I were watching my mther go through a speech therapy session. Afterwards my friend told me she was figuring out the mathematical problems faster than he was. She can still keep up with the best of them.

Emotionally it has been a bit of a struggle over the past three years. It is hard to see her get frustrated and upset when people are not able to understand her. Making an effort to really listen to her helps make it easier on myself. The one thing that she has said over the past three years that I hate to hear is, "you should of just let me die." I get upset everytime she says that and I have no idea how to respond to that without getting upset and emotional as well. But with encouragement from me and everybody who cares about her, she usually stops thinking so negativly. She knows she has a long road to recovery, but thinking so poorly will not help make the fight any easier. She is beating this, slowly but surely.

While dealing with my parents and helping them take care of their issues, I have also been trying to find myself. During the time of her stroke, I was a music student. I have been playing music for practically my whole life. And music will be a part of my life forever whether I want it to or not. But I kept thinking to myself, 'is this going to make me happy?'. Or is this going to fulfil my want to help people in the long run? And I started having doubts if a full time career in music would fill the desire I have to help the ill. After obtaining my associates in music, this began my journey to seriously consider a career in the medical field. The question I kept asking myself was, what would I do?

Alverno College has a music therapy program. I was drawn to it because I could still use music in my life and my personal talents could be used to help disabled people in various shapes and forms. But as I sat in my first course, I realized that this career path would of destroyed me. Emotionally, it was too much for me to bear. Then I decided to give the bachelor's degree in music a shot. I exceled in all my music courses, no problem for me. But I felt empty and thoughtless when I was in the courses. I felt like I was at a dead end when it came to music. Due to those feelings I decided to take a temporary leave from Alverno for at least one school year. And then I went on to make the biggest mistake I made this year.

Massage therapy was always an interest of mine. And little did I know there was massage therapy programs in the Milwaukee area. The only one that called me back was Anthem College. The diploma package was too good to be true; I would have gotten my own massage table and chair included with my tuition! So I signed up right away. Things were finally looking up career-wise. But then I fell ill with pneumonia and had to be put in the hospital. Due to attendance policies, they terminated me from the program; even though they knew where I was at. I even called them back while I was in the intensive care unit! I was hurt and upset that they were not willing to work with me at all. So I decided to cut my losses with them, cancel my loans, and not communicate with them again.

Talking with my mom one day while visiting her the idea of nursing came up. I never really thought about pursuing a career in nursing until after the Anthem College debacle. She always said I would make a good nurse. I always laughed when she said that. But then at work while on my break I did a self-assessment test for a career change. And nursing was the top option in my scoring. Needless to say, I was shocked and thought I did something wrong; I did not. Sitting in my cubicle after break, I started thinking about what my life would be like if I became a nurse. It hit me like a train! This is what I was supposed to do. And it has been staring at me in the face my entire life!

When I told my mother I am going to pursue nursing, she just smiled and said, "go for it, I know you can do it." I am returning to Alverno in the spring of 2014 as a pre-nursing major. I only have to complete the introductory science courses and a nursing diagnostic assessment to get into the nursing program. My advisor and a nursing instructor that was my teacher from a past class told me I am not going to have a problem with either one. The instructor told me while I was meeting with her that I was the "quintessential Alverno woman". I felt good about my decision. I finally have a plan! That is what I was missing in music.

Growing up with an emergency room nurse for a mother you see the world in a different light. And when an emergency happened with her, life changed. Watching my mother work back from square one: I have realized how important it is to help people in a physical, mental, and emotional capacity. And who knows maybe I'll integrate music with nursing someday. My mother and what has happened to her is the root inspiration to why I am deciding to pursue a career in nursing.


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