Former Patient, Future Nurse: Jenn’s Story

Inspired by her caretakers at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, former patient, Jennifer S. shares her courageous journey with Crohn’s Disease and how it set her on the path to a nursing degree.

scanlon blogWhen I was 15-years-old I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease after many, many months of debilitating symptoms that kept me out of school and in constant pain. My PCP got in contact with a gastroenterologist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, started a typically course of treatment for the disease, and within a year, that treatment became ineffective.

Exactly one year after the diagnosis I ended up back in the hospital and this time I was to have a surgery removing 2 feet of my intestines. It was pretty traumatic for a now, 16-year-old. I was worried about prom, my classes in school and applying to colleges. However, with the incredible nurses, doctors, and surgeons, this month of surgery and recovery turned into one of the most impactful times of my life.

As of a few weeks ago, I am a graduate from Lipscomb University (Nashville, TN) with a degree in nursing. In a few weeks I sit for my board exam to become a Registered Nurse. Starting August 1st, I begin my first RN job at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, TN.

My last time being hospitalized was when I was 16-years-old for that surgery. Through that traumatic time in high school, my eyes were opened to how much I love the medical field and what an amazing role one has as a medical professional to make an impact on families and children. My experience at Connecticut Children’s and with Crohn’s Disease inspired me to become a registered nurse and now I have the same opportunity to care, advocate, and encourage just as I was taken care of.

Thank you Connecticut Children’s. As medical professionals we desire to CURE so often. However, with Crohn’s and many, many other diseases, we can’t and that is frustrating. But you all helped me to HEAL. I will always have Crohn’s and sometimes it’s more of a burden than I wish it was, but I’ve learned how to adapt and live fully despite the day to day problems.

It has inspired me, made me passionate for others in vulnerable places, and cultivated a huge desire in me to become an RN. You all helped that healing process. That is what medicine is and what we all should be striving for as we practice. I can’t wait to be able to care for my future clients as a pediatric RN the way you all cared for me.

Strength for Samuel

By Allison S.

strength for samuelMy son Samuel, was born last summer and diagnosed at birth with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, type 3. He was born with four fractures and spent the first month of his life at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center undergoing testing, surgery, and infusions.

He has already suffered at least ten known broken bones since birth, and has had two additional surgeries. He sees several doctors at Connecticut Children’s on a regular basis being followed mainly by orthopedics, genetics, ENT, GI, endocrinology, neurosurgery, pulmonology and audiology.

Samuel also has kyphosis of his spine and wears a brace for support daily. He struggles with nutrition and as a result has a feeding tube. Samuel also had pretty significant hydrocephalus and had a shunt placed in April. He deals with much more than the average baby but handles each challenge so incredibly well with a smile on his face. He is a strong and happy boy.

We have been very pleased with the care Samuel receives at the Medical Center. He has met wonderful doctors, nurses, PCAs, and medical personnel. Thank you Connecticut Children’s for making a difference in our son’s life!

To learn more about this brave little boy and his inspiring story, please visit the Facebook page Strength for Samuel.

“We Have Found a Family Here”

By Veronica R.

rosario blog photo 2Last year my son was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I started my journey taking a leap of faith and moving to Connecticut. Having heard of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center through family members that live near Hartford, it was as they say “a no brainer.” Having this opportunity, I had to take it. Understanding the outcome of his condition, he needed to be able to have a good quality of life and the opportunity to be as independent as possible.

That’s when I decided to move to Connecticut and seek help at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

In 2014, I noticed that my son was having some difficulty standing up and going up the stairs. Expressing my concerns to his primary doctor I asked to be referred to a physical therapist. There I was, told that there was a deficiency in his muscles and she referred me to the MDA Clinic. There he was, tested but the results were inconclusive and required further testing. In September of 2016 his diagnosis was confirmed as being Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Now he is on track with his medication and therapies. We have found a family here at Connecticut Children’s.

rosario blog photo 1When I first applied they were not accepting new patients at that time, but thanks to their care coordinators, found a way to receive them. Once that happened everything fell into place. His appointments started coming in, one right after the other. These past 9 months have been full of appointments but it is all worth it knowing that my son is receiving the best care possible.

My experience with Connecticut Children’s has been wonderful. Everyone that we have been in contact with has gone up and beyond what I could have expected. When my kids have an appointment they don’t think or feel like they’re going to a hospital.

Nightingale Spotlight: Kristina Kaminski

Kaminski HeadshotWhen you first meet Kristina Kaminiski, you can’t help but notice the sparkle in her big brown eyes and magnetic smile. It is immediately clear she’s never met a stranger. She exudes a kind of energy that is both warm and inviting, something her pediatric patients are immediately drawn to.

Kaminiski started her nursing career in 2007 and made the move to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in 2009. The young mother of two wasted no time making her mark on the hospital and her patients. Kaminiski is a nursing leader on MS6, an inpatient floor of the hospital, where she specializes in caring for nephrology patients who are suffering from acute renal failure.

Unlike some of her peers, Kaminiski didn’t always know she wanted to be a nurse. In fact, she was one year away from college graduation with a degree to teach biology when she lost several family members to cancer. It was during those long hours at the hospital that her career ambitions shifted. She saw the difference nurses made in the lives of her family and wanted to make the same kind of impact in her career.

That impact is now being felt every day at Connecticut Children’s. Kaminiski currently sits on the Nursing Practice Council, recently revamped the hospital’s tracheostomy policy, and was instrumental in re-validating all of the nursing staff on how to take a manual blood pressure reading, a skill that can be quickly lost due to current technology. More important than perhaps all of that is her ability to win the trust of some of youngest and most skeptical patients.

kaminski with patient“I always knew I wanted to work with kids in some capacity. I loved babysitting when I was growing up and was always told I had a way of connecting with children,” Kaminiski recalled. “It’s important to remember they are people too.”

Kaminiski has a Masters in Nursing Education with future ambitions of teaching undergraduate nursing students. She recognizes that her experience as a nurse has given her invaluable knowledge she’s eager to share.

“There are many things in nursing that you can’t learn from a book,” said Kaminiski. “The one thing that sticks out in my mind is remembering to treat the whole family, not just the patient. You have to advocate for them during what can be a stressful time. In addition, it’s important to not get overwhelmed by all the tasks you have to complete and remember you have to devote time to being a nurse. Listen to what the family is saying and always remember to show compassion.”

On her way back to a patient room, a co-worker stops us in the hall and says “She’s the absolute best. Please make sure you include that in the story.” It’s the kind of unprompted praise that quickly makes you realize what an asset Kristina is to Connecticut Children’s and its patients and families.

When asked what it means to be selected as a Nightingale, Kaminiski immediately chokes up with tears that threaten to spill over. “It’s such an honor and simply a dream come true,” she whispers.

Lynn’s Story

By Lynn A.

In honor of National Nurses Week, Lynn shares her courageous journey with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and how the nurses at Connecticut Children’s inspired her to reach for her dreams and become a nurse.

12506876_1053862361331626_1925326789_nWhen I arrived at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center’s Emergency Room on May 25, 2012, I did not think that the next time I would leave the hospital would be 28 days later. I had been in the ER about a week earlier for chest pain which was diagnosed as heart burn. I had a CAT scan while in the ER. That night the biggest worry on my mind was my Western Civilization presentation the next morning. I came back on the 25th because my right arm, which had had an IV in it from the previous ER visit, had swelled to twice its size. My immobile arm crossed my stomach as if it were in a cast. I was told I had a blood clot in my arm and I would need to stay in the hospital for three days on the hematology floor. I was really disappointed that I had to spend the Memorial Day holiday weekend in the hospital. (It turned out that this would be the first of several holidays that I would spend in the hospital.) The blood clot formed when the fluid used during the CAT scan infiltrated my diseased bloodstream. As it was later explained to me, the combination of the two was like the perfect storm.

Just before midnight, as I was settling into bed, a group of staff came into my room, including oncologist Dr. Nathan Hagstrom. Dr. Hagstrom explained to my parents and me that my blood was diseased because I had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). He then went on to explain that AML was an aggressive form of leukemia found in only 20% of pediatric leukemia cases and I would need to begin treatment right away. The thought of being completely healthy one moment to having no certainty in my future was indescribable. Suddenly my presentation for school seemed liked the smallest worry in the world. Being only fifteen years old my worry was about losing my hair. Soon I learned that losing my hair was also not an important issue anymore.

12511887_1053862344664961_1933938949_nThat night I had a spinal tap which included my first dosage of chemo. The next day I had a Double Hickman line put into my chest to receive medicine and to draw blood and my first chemo treatment via IV. I received four rounds of chemo at Connecticut Children’s before heading up to Boston to receive a bone marrow transplant from an anonymous donor found by the national bone marrow registry, Be the Match. Each round was one week of chemo followed by three weeks of waiting for my immune system to recover. During these weeks I stayed in one of the three rooms on the eighth floor known as “isolation” rooms. These rooms had two doors to enter and special filtered air to minimize my chances of getting an infection while my immune system was weak. Once my immune system dropped to a certain level, usually within the first few days, I was only allowed to leave the room for tests and scans.

You may wonder how I felt being in my isolation room for weeks at a time. There were days when I thought about my life before getting sick and I just wanted to hide under my blanket with all of the lights off. But on the days when I was feeling well I wanted to make the most of my situation. I was so lucky to have parents who stayed with me every night and family who visited almost every single day. Connecticut Children’s offered so many resources with every type of therapy one could imagine, from massage and pet therapy to music. All of the staff members, from the doctors to the cleaners, were always friendly and polite and I could tell wanted what was best for me. The nurses and patient care assistants saw me the most and I appreciated that they all took the time to get to know me. They treated me as a real person and not just as another patient. No matter how busy they were, they always took the time to talk and play games with me. I loved exchanging stories with my nurses and hearing why they chose to become a pediatric oncology nurse. After hearing their stories and seeing firsthand what nurses do, I knew from then on that I would want to pursue nursing in the future.

1931988_1053862141331648_1330553323_nThree and a half years later that is exactly what I am doing. I am currently a sophomore nursing student at Quinnipiac University. One of the reasons I chose Quinnipiac was that two of my favorite nurses from Connecticut Children’s had graduated from there; I knew that the program must have done something right to produce such great nurses. Although I have yet to start my core nursing classes I am excited to see what the next two years bring me. I have my nurses from Connecticut Children’s to thank for showing me how exceptional nurses are…kind, knowledgeable and, most importantly, compassionate.

Since my successful bone marrow transplant in November 2012, followed by a year of recovery, I have been in good health and remain cancer free. A piece of advice I would give to a current patient would be that even though the situation feels like it will never end, every day you are one step closer.

Every drop that goes through your IV, every ounce of blood you take in, every bad cell that is killed, while it may not seem significant at the time, is getting you one step closer to the end of treatment.