2007 Extraordinary Healer Award Finalists

Patients honor their oncology nurses. 

RACHEL BAUMGARTNER
PUBLISHED: JUNE 11, 2007
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
Following are two of the finalist essays for CURE’s 2007 Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing. The Extraordinary Healer Award recipient Brian Elliott, RN, director at Colquitt Regional-Singletary Oncology Center in Moultrie, Georgia, as well as the winning essay by Margaret Light are featured in the Fall 2007 issue of Heal.

Tish Mullen: my very own fairy godmother nurse

I was diagnosed with a tumor wrapped around my spinal cord at the age of 15, and then relapsed at 18 and then again at 19. Over those years, Tish Mullen was not just a nurse—she was my home-care nurse making lots of special trips to my house.

I still remember the first time my family and I met Tish eight years ago. She came to our house when I was fresh out of my first of endless hospital stays. She showed us how the I.V. backpack worked and told us to make sure to change the batteries before bed so it did not scream in the middle of the night from weakness. She also helped my dad give me my first of numerous shots and was sweet enough to try to not do too much instructing because my dad gives shots in people’s mouths every day (he’s a dentist).

You see, I never seem to follow the “rules” when it comes to anything medical, which meant Tish always seemed to be called at the worst times—middle of the night, during dinner, you get the point.

On the non-emergency visits, she would come early in the mornings and slip into my room when I was sleeping and check my blood pressure, temperature, and other vital signs. Then she would take blood from my I.V. line in my chest and change out my I.V. bags. All of this was done in the dark of my bedroom and with me remaining asleep—and I am a light sleeper in the morning!

Many times, my I.V. backpack would break in the middle of the night and the alarm would start screaming. Or I would find that my needle had shifted in my chest and fluid had pumped persistently just under my skin and not into my vein—enough that it looked like I had a third breast. Or my port would just stop working.

She would always be over quickly to save the day with a loving grandmotherly touch.

Everything mentioned would have been amazing in and of itself, but the way she earned the term “Fairy Godmother Nurse” really came about in a different and extraordinary way. 

I was extremely sick and in the hospital for most of the second semester of my senior year of high school. Well, when prom came around, it was really touch-and-go whether I would be in the hospital or not. Because of Tish, I was not in the hospital, got to attend prom, stayed out late, and all of this without my ever-present I.V. backpack. This was quite a feat!

She came over right before I got ready and removed my I.V. and I.V. backpack as part of getting ready (sort of a substitute for doing my hair since there was none). I put on my flowing royal blue gown and was whisked off as a princess for the evening—putting the fact that I was going into an intense life-threatening stem cell transplant in a week in the back of my mind.

At about 4 in the morning, I arrived home from the after-festivities and called Tish, as I had been instructed to do. She came over and safely put the I.V. back in like it had never left.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
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