I have been a nurse for nine years. I’ve worked in a long-term care facility, a hospital, and finally found my place as a hospice nurse. I chose to go into nursing because I’ve always wanted to connect with people when they are most vulnerable as that is a time you can have a great impact. In my nine years of nursing I have found that the patients tend to have more of an impact on me than I do on them. However, one particular patient has had a profound impact and she wasn’t even my patient; she is my baby sister. She is the epitome of what it is to NEVER QUIT.
My parents had my older sister and myself and decided two was enough (if not too many)! Mom had a tubal after delivering me. Three and a half years later she was delivering another baby girl! Her nickname was “Boo-boo” (happy accidents) but was later shortened to “Boo” as she began asking where her nickname came from. As a child she was dramatic and bratty. She had no filter and was a spitfire. She was skinny but strong as an ox and literally had a six pack when she was seven. One of her biggest downfalls was she had terrible luck. My friends and I were forced to include her in just about everything we did. It didn’t matter what it was we were doing, if there was a possibility of a bad outcome for one of us, it was Boo who received the bad outcome. If there was a short straw, Boo would draw it. And so became the theme of her life but she NEVER QUIT.
Boo was one of those people who are naturally good at sports. In high school she excelled at tennis and softball. We all knew she was sure to go to college on scholarship. However, her junior year of high school she came home with the news that she was pregnant despite her very strict routine of taking her birth control every day at the same time. Despite her dream of going to college playing a sport she loved, she chose to get her GED and start cosmetology school as soon as she turned eighteen. She completed her GED prior to my nephew’s birth and started school soon after he was born.
After college Boo was asked to work with our cousin at the salon she owned. She had the same natural talent in cosmetology as she did in sports. However, when you live in a small town with 5+ successful salons, clientele is hard to come by but she NEVER QUIT. After having difference of opinions with our cousin, she was asked to work at another salon that was soon to be opening in our town. She was thrilled. This salon owner was still getting her business plan together and Boo needed to earn a living. She took a job as a bank teller for about a year then got a chair at the new salon. Other issues came into play and the owner of the new salon decided to throw a no compete clause at the employees. Again, living in a small town and signing the clause would mean Boo would be forced to work in another town if she ever decided to leave this particular salon. She refused to sign and found yet another salon. Three times a charm, right? At the third salon she found a family in those that worked there. She began building a steady clientele and was loving life with her five year old. She knew who she was and was doing what she loved; making people feel beautiful. Once again life threw her a curve ball that made her start from beginning.
On September 1, 2013 my alarm clock was to go off at 0445 as I had to work that day. Five minutes prior to hearing that dreadful sound my phone rang. It was my dad. He explained to me that he and my mom had heard Boo yelling (she lives with my parents) and they found her on the floor and unable to move anything on her left side. Her speech was slurred and my parents were unsure if they should call an ambulance or if it was safe to drive her to the emergency room. While I encouraged them to call an ambulance, the on call doctor said my parents could drive her if she was able to move her head from side to side. Worrying about an ambulance bill they chose to drive her to the ER which is less than two minutes from their house. Being a nurse, my instinct was to get to her as fast as possible. Since my parents hadn’t yet left I made the drive to their house (one town over from mine) in a much shorter time frame than I should have. After assessing her, it was clear my twenty two year old sister was having a stroke. My mom and I loaded her into the car and headed to the hospital. Her vital signs were not encouraging. The nurses were administering medications to keep her blood pressure up but they were having little effect. Systolic BP in the low 90’s and heart rate in the 30’s. Normally we don’t transport until the patient is stable but there was no other option. I stood helpless as they rushed her to the heli-pad. As we gathered our things to drive the two hours to a larger hospital with a neurologist I was barely holding it together. I just knew that we were going to arrive at the hospital only to find that my baby sister had faced all these previous challenges only to succumb to a condition that is rarely seen in a young adult. Need I say, terrible luck?!
We arrived at Wesley Medical Center’s neuro ICU to find that little shit battling with the nurse over not replacing the catheter she had been complaining about since placement. Her speech was still slurred with facial drooping on the left side and no function in her left extremities. But she was alive and the relief that washed over me was indescribable. She had a long road ahead. Seven days of testing and no conclusive answers as to why she had a stroke. She was moved closer to home for therapy. My son had his first birthday in the family room of the rehabilitation floor and a month later she had learned to ambulate with a walker and was released with orders for outpatient therapy in our home town. Her journey was just beginning. The therapists told her in her first week that she shouldn’t expect to get to regain much more in the way of function on her left side. This broke my heart but she had different plans. She began research and started assisting in the planning of her rehabilitation. As a cosmetologist you hold hair at a 40 degree angle so she helped come up with ideas for exercises to regain that function in her fingers. She found stories online of inventions people with her same condition have made to regain mobility. She learned how to become an advocate for herself. By the end of her rehab the therapists had learned their lesson: Do not make a patient feel as if there is no hope. Boo would not regain enough function to return to cosmetology but she did make the decision to return to therapy. This time she wanted to be the one GIVING hope to patients. Today she is going to school to become an occupational therapy assistant. She still has some limitations but has never accepted it when someone told her she couldn’t do something.
In only five years she has overcome more obstacles than some face in a lifetime but she has NEVER QUIT. She holds her head high and plows through the road blocks placed in her path. She has become one of the strongest individuals in my life and she inspires me each and every day. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and I am honored to be related to one.