Before I started working at Children's Medical Center Dallas as a nurse in 2017, I spent eight and a half years at the hospital as a patient parent with my children—most of the time I was there with Nate.
After more than four weeks in the hospital on bed rest, I gave birth to triplet boys at 26 weeks. Two of the boys came home from the NICU, but Nate, the smallest and sickest, transferred from the NICU to Children's Medical Center Dallas. Eventually, two weeks before their first birthday, I had all three boys home for the first time. It was a scary day to leave the comfort of the only care Nate had known, but I am glad we did.
Each boy came home with his own medical requirements. All three came home with G-tubes, and two of the boys came home with trachs and ventilators. Before I knew it, we had a mini hospital in our home. I was a case manager, nurse, mom, respiratory therapist and part-time pharmacist. I had no idea this would be our lives. Each boy had stays in the hospital, but Nate was the most frequent visitor.
When he was 6 years old, Nate contracted respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and was in the ICU for four months. The RSV took a toll on his lungs, and in 2009, he went to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston for a lung transplant. He had a long and complicated recovery. Six months after arriving in Houston, we flew home to continue his recovery. It was a stormy day, and I wasn't sure we would be allowed to fly to Dallas.
Due to the weather, it was a turbulent flight. But as we came down below the clouds, I could see the neon Children's Medical Center sign. Through my tears, I said, "Look Nate, we're home." It wasn't our house, but it was the place full of people who loved and cared for Nate throughout much of his life.
At some point in Nate's journey, I decided I wanted to become a nurse, but Nate's care was too involved for me to go to nursing school at the time. And in July 2012, Nate's body just couldn't fight anymore, and he passed away at his "hostible" where he was surrounded by love.
The moment I feared the most was walking away from my son when he died. The ICU nurse and respiratory therapist, who stood by his bedside for those awful four months of RSV, came down from the ICU and took Nate in their arms and said, "We'll take him from here." It made all the difference.
One month after losing Nate, I began taking my prerequisites for nursing school. In 2016, I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in nursing. I now work in the place we called home for so many years—I am a pediatric cardiology nurse. It's different from my experience, and yet very much the same. Recently, a patient's mother said to me, "You have no idea what I am going through," and I could genuinely say, "I have walked a mile in your shoes."
Our journey may not be exactly the same, but I understand the fear, the exhaustion and the stress of having a chronically ill child. If I can make half the difference in my patients' and their family's lives as the nurses made in mine, it will all be worth it.
Toward the end of nursing school, all the talk was about where everyone wanted to work and what kind of nurse they wanted to be. Many were unsure, but I never doubted what I wanted to do. I wanted to work at Children's Medical Center Dallas and be like the amazing nurses who took care of our family.