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Kelsey Gross, RN, Nu’19, W’19

“One Tuesday morning before my senior leadership clinical, I was kind of stressed out over typical “college sorority girl” problems - I was worried about disappointing my boyfriend because we were deciding between going to my sorority date night and going to New York for our good friend’s birthday party. I couldn’t decide what to do and was worried about disappointing him and potentially missing out on my senior year experiences. I still hadn’t decided what to do before it was time to leave for clinical.

At clinical, I took care of an 8 month old with hypoplastic left heart syndrome - a congenital cardiac defect which is usually fixed with a set of three surgeries. This baby was having complications after his second surgery, and was in the process of becoming intubated. His mother was at his bedside, and we chatted for a bit. I learned that she used to be in physical therapy school, but had to stop to care for her son. My own mother is a physical therapist. We talked some more, and she showed me pictures and videos on her phone of her son throughout his life and health fluctuations. He loved music and was a very smiley, happy baby at home with his family. His mother told me she was 22 - I’m 22. I was particularly struck by his mother’s knowledge about his care and advocacy for his needs - not only did she ask his nurse for extra pain medication, but she asked for the specific medication and listed the signs and symptoms she observed that indicated his need for it. I was extremely impressed, and complimented her on her maturity and what a good mother she was. “Nobody’s actually told me that,” she smiled. “Thank you. I’ve learned a lot through all of the hospitalizations.” I told her I could tell. “I wish I could be learning like you are, though,” she replied. And then what she said next really hit me. “Actually, no, I take that back,” she said. “I was born to be the mother of this child.” Looking back, I am so embarrassed by my worries earlier that afternoon. I hope this somehow reaches her so I get the chance to tell her what an amazing impact she has made. I am so excited to be able to work with patients and families like her every day for the rest of my life.”

Photo by Sean Legg

To submit your own story, visit www.nursing.upenn.edu/humans.