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Kathy Rideout | Nurses Week | University of Rochester School of Nursing

  By Kathy Rideout, EdD, PPCNP-BC, FNAP 
  Thursday, May 4, 2017

By Dean Kathy Rideout, EdD, PPCNP-BC, FNAP 

During my first year working at Golisano Children’s Hospital, I had the privilege of caring for a 12-year-old girl, Amanda,* who had a brain tumor. She had a very caring mom and dad and a younger brother, 6-year old David, who had some developmental challenges. It was apparent that the family was not financially wealthy but provided very well for their children — especially in the area of love and support.

During her first year of treatment, Amanda was doing OK, but then, her health started to decline. It was during this time that Amanda’s mom told us that she was pregnant. Amanda could not have been happier. Her mom’s pregnancy was uneventful, but when the baby was delivered, he was diagnosed with a malignant eye tumor, and the recommended treatment was to remove his eye.

Amanda passed away a few months after her brother was born. Although heartbroken, the family held firm to their faith and were relieved that she wouldn’t suffer any longer. Her family made a point of returning to the unit, to express their gratitude to all of us for the care provided to Amanda and their family.

A short time later, her mom contacted me to tell me that her husband had accepted a job outside of Rochester and that they had decided to move. She invited my husband and me to their home for dinner as a way to thank me for all that I had done for them.

I will never forget the dinner. They had made hamburgers on the charcoal grill and had a loaf of bread on the table with family size bottles of ketchup and mustard. They also served vegetables from their garden. Our dinnerware was paper plates and plastic forks. David sat next to his mom in a make-shift chair to give him enough support to stay upright to eat dinner. James, the baby, sat in a well-worn high chair next to Dad.

Before eating dinner, the father asked us to hold hands and to bow our heads for prayer. He began the prayer by thanking God for all of their blessings, and then in detail expressed thanks for his wife, his sons David and James, his daughter Amanda and then for my husband and I. During his prayers, I couldn’t help but open my eyes to look at my husband, who was also looking at me. Here we were — about to share dinner with a family who had recently lost their daughter, whose oldest son couldn’t sit upright on his own or feed himself, and their baby son who had already lost an eye to cancer. And the father was thankful for all of his blessings?

Talk about a humbling experience. I remembered complaining just that morning about closet space or lack thereof and worrying about how much longer my 100,000+ mile car was going to last.

Dinner was amazing. They shared many family memories and we did the same. We found ourselves laughing and thoroughly enjoying the evening. In my role as dean, I am invited to many elegant dinners. But I have never been to a nicer, more memorable dinner than I shared with Amanda’s family that evening. They taught me more about perspective and gratitude than I could ever have hoped for.

Kathy's story was shared with the UR School of Nursing as part of National Nurses Week.
*The names of the individuals in this essay have been changed to ensure their anonymity. 

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