Category Archives: Alumni

The Stillborn

As a part of the 50th anniversary of the BYU College of Nursing, a book was compiled called “The Healer’s Art: 50 stories for 50 years.” It has been 15 years since this book was first published and these stories were shared. We plan to regularly post selections from this book to help each of us remember and cherish the experiences of nursing and learning the Healer’s art. 

 

The Stillborn

Tyrone Brown

We often think of the nurse who has The Healer’s Art, but on this particular day, it was two patients that touched my heart. Three years ago, my life plan took a dramatic change. I was a football player for Brigham Young University, a nationally ranked division I team. Like many players, I had the dream of playing in the National Football League. During my sophomore year I suffered an injury that caused two herniated discs in my lower back and ended my career as a football player. Not only was my dream cut short, it was completely obliterated. Despite this unfortunate event, I was a firm believer that other doors will open when one closes.

I had a close friend who encouraged me to go into nursing. I courageously, and with an extreme alteration to my ego, acted upon his advice! I applied to and was accepted into the nursing program at BYU.

After about half a year in the program I was going into the clinical rotation that I dreaded most: Labor and delivery. This is where my story begins. You see, I’m six-foot-three, male, muscular, African American, and bald (by choice). Sometimes I see myself in the mirror and I get scared! I was terrified that the patients and other nurses would be so afraid of me, they would ask me to leave the room or wait outside the door during my time there. Most of all I thought, “How am I, a man, going to offer encouragement and support to a woman when I have no clue what it is like to be pregnant and in labor?” I thought my whole time there was going to be miserable and a waste of time.

Ironically, this turned out not to be the case at all; it turned out to be one of my most memorable rotations as a nursing student. It was during this rotation that I had an experience that would expand my perspective and outlook on life, for it was this experience that taught me what the Healer’s Art is all about.

On this particular day, I was assigned to work with a nurse who would be helping a mother and her family recover physically and spiritually after giving birth to a stillborn that morning. When we walked in the room to introduce ourselves, a Catholic priest was there giving the baby a blessing. The baby was in the arms of a young boy who was lying down asleep on a bed. I later learned that this young boy had cried himself to sleep with his baby brother in his arms. The room was dark and smelled of blood and body fluids. The father was in the bathroom.

We learned from the night shift nurse that the father had passed out when the baby was born. The mother was lying in bed with the underlying sheets covered in blood. She was sad, disappointed, and confused. This would have been her eighth child. She was diagnosed with chronic hypertension and had had poor prenatal care.  The baby had apparently been dead for a month because upon her admission to the hospital she reported no fetal movement for about this length of time.

Finally, the priest left the room and then the nurse also left to get a consent form to have an autopsy performed, so it was me alone with this family. I sat beside the father as he held his baby boy in his arms. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything at all; I just put my hands on his shoulder. The nurse returned to the room with the consent form. The father then asked me if I could hold the baby while he signed the papers. It was a moment in time that I will never forget.  There was not the usual movement, crying, or opening of the mouth and eyes. There was blood around the baby’s mouth, eyes, and on his head. Vernix was still around his arms and legs. A million thoughts rushed in my mind. I thought about what this little boy’s spirit would have been like. I thought about all the fun things he would miss out on in life, like learning how to throw a baseball or ride a bike or his first kiss.

The nurse and I finished helping this family. We switched the mother to another bed. We took the baby to the morgue. I learned all about the process and the extended amount of paper work that must be done in these terrible situations.

Later that day as I was sitting at the nurses station watching the fetal monitor of a new patient, one of the nurses walked by with a newborn and asked me if I would hold the baby while she finished getting a few things together. As I held this live and active newborn in my arms, I thought about my earlier experience. I could feel the heartbeat of this new baby boy I was now holding. He opened his mouth wide and moved his arms and body. I couldn’t help but smile and feel love for this precious gift of life. My troubled heart was becoming mended.

The first time I held a baby in Labor and delivery was when I held the stillborn. The second time was later that day when I held the live newborn. In just one day I saw and felt the whole spectrum of the good and bad in Labor and delivery.

You see, most of the time we think of the nurse as the one who has The Healer’s Art, but on this day it was these two tiny little babies that opened my heart and touched it forever. Who knows, maybe it was part of this little stillborn’s mission to come to earth and touch my life. I will never forget him. He will always remain close to my heart. Wow, the children—no wonder Jesus loved them so much. Theirs is truly the kingdom of Heaven.

Help Celebrate the College of Nursing’s 65th Anniversary

 

To recognize the 65th anniversary of the Brigham Young University College of Nursing—established on September 29, 1952—we’re inviting all alumni and students to help celebrate. Since the influence of our program is known worldwide, we’re wondering, “Where will the college logo travel in the next few months?”

From now until September, we are asking our alums and students to do the following:

  1. Cut out/use the college logo from the 2017 college spring magazine (page 13) or print the image from above.
  2. Bring the logo with you on your journeys—near and far—this spring and summer.
  3. Take a photo of you, your family, or your friends with the logo in front of your favorite location.
  4. Post your images on Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtag #Ynursing52.

 

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Kaylee Hunsaker at National Institute of Health in Washington, DC

If you are not planning any trips, no need to worry. Snap an image in your backyard, community, or workplace. These photos will track all of the adventures and accomplishments of our alumni and students. We’re planning a display in the fall 2017 issue of the magazine, during Homecoming, and at the Scholarly Works Conference in October. To be considered for inclusion in the fall magazine, entries must be received by June 15; otherwise, photos are due September 15.

 

You don’t do social media? Email high-resolution photos (JPG file in original size) to nursingpr@byu.edu, or mail them to BYU College of Nursing, 65th Anniversary Celebration, 572 SWKT, Provo, UT 84602.

Let’s see how far our celebration can go! Who will take the logo with them? Stay tuned.

 

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Cory Paul (BS’17) in Antarctica 

 

Fortitude and Faith: How a Rare Disease Brought a BYU Professor’s Family Together

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Assistant teaching professor Scott Summers and his family have spent the past two years working to cure Koven (center) of a rare genetic disease.

Each year, around twenty million people flock to Walt Disney World to experience the adrenaline rush that rides going at breakneck speeds provide, as well as the overall atmosphere of enjoyment that comes with an amusement park.

This winter break, however, the park will have guests who themselves have been on an emotional and spiritual roller coaster far more potent and turbulent than anything in the Magic Kingdom.

Assistant teaching professor Scott Summers and his family have spent the past two and a half years handling the severe illness of the youngest member of the family. His recent improvement, however, is offering the family the chance to adapt to a new normal where instead of frequent trips to the hospital, family outings can be to the mountains or even faraway Orlando.

Summers has been involved in nursing ever since he graduated from Idaho State University in 2007; it’s also where he met and married his wife, Kendra. Summers eventually got a masters’ degree from BYU in 2011 and returned to teach this year. His expertise is helping patients with head, neck, ear, nose, and throat surgeries.

In fact, that became critical when his son Koven, the youngest of three, became ill.

“When he was four months old, he got sick and we ended up being life flighted to Primary Children’s Hospital and spent two weeks up there,” Summers recalls. “He had surgery on this big neck infection he had. It was crazy because at that time I was the one who found the neck infection because that’s what I specialize in.”

A few months later, Koven again became ill. Summers grew more concerned; Koven’s symptoms were beginning to look like chronic granulomatous disorder (CGD), a rare genetic disease that reduces the body’s ability to fight certain types of infections.

Testing revealed that Koven did have CGD. For Summers, this was hard to bear both as a parent and as a medical professional.

“It’s good to have the background knowledge, and it’s bad to have the background knowledge,” he says. “I call it the burden of knowledge because you see and know what to expect with certain situations, outcomes, percentages, and different things like that. It’s good because then you also know what we need to be doing and what the next step is, so it’s not always that uncertainty.”

The next two years would be replete with challenges as the Summers worked to preserve Koven’s health.

“His white blood cells can’t fight certain types of infection, so certain bacterial infections and fungal infections, he’s really susceptible to,” explains Summers. That vulnerability, he says, “kept us a little more grounded within a half hour of Primary Children’s Hospital.”

Koven was in and out of the hospital frequently, which was difficult for the family to manage. Oftentimes, grandparents would have to be called in to watch the other two children while Summers and his wife were with Koven. This was challenging, but also provided unexpected blessings to the family.

“Over the past couple years, we’ve had to ask a lot of help, which we don’t love doing,” he says. “I think it’s made us stronger. It’s taught us to rely on each other, to keep other members of our family in our prayers and thoughts.”

One of the turning points for Summers was when he asked his father to give Koven a priesthood blessing.

“In the blessing he gave some special promises,” Summers says. “I then knew things were going to be OK regardless of what happened, and it changed a lot of my thinking going forward.”

That hope was important as the Summers looked for ways to cure Koven.

“Before we knew that he could do a transplant, because we didn’t know if we would have an adequate donor, [we kept him] on medication to try and manage the number of infections, but the medication was particularly hard on him, and it limited what we were able to do as a family,” Summers says. “One medication made him so sensitive to the sun that he would break out in blisters all over his skin, so we didn’t spend a lot of time outside that summer.”

Faith helped sustain the family during these difficult times. Scott was grateful for his knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which served as a strong foundation in trials.

“It’s been a journey, but on the other hand it’s been really nice having my knowledge even outside of medicine to fall back on, my knowledge of the gospel and knowing that regardless of what comes out of it, it’s going to strengthen our family and allow us to continue to progress with Heavenly Father’s plan,” he says. “Obviously we hoped that with time everything will go back to normal and we would have a happy, healthy little boy, and this would just be a memory. I guess it was more of a hopeful optimism, but as things progressed, I began to more easily see blessings in our lives that maybe we wouldn’t have noticed before or had not fully appreciated, which just further strengthened my belief in our Heavenly Father’s love for our little family.”

Over time, a new light appeared on the horizon. One of the techniques for curing CGD that has been developed in recent years is doing bone marrow transplants from suitable donors. This requires specific donor qualities, which the Summers found out their six-year-old daughter had. Preparation quickly began for the procedure, but even that entailed immense struggles since Koven’s immune system had to be essentially annihilated to prevent his body from rejecting the new marrow.

“After we got the okay for transplant, we had to wait until [Koven] was healthy enough to undergo the transplant,” Summers says. “At the time he had a nasty infection in his bone, and we were still waiting for the fungal infection in his lung to clear up enough so that we could kill his somewhat functioning immune system with chemotherapy in preparation for the transplant.”

Following this difficult process, the transplant was completed at the beginning of this year. Koven spent a month in the hospital, following which began the waiting period at home to see if his body would reject the transplant. It was fraught with risks of more infection, but as Summers says, “We were back together as a family, which gave us a new kind of hope.”

Luckily for the family, the transplant appears to be working.

“Months have gone by since that time, his hair has grown back to normal,” Summers says. “He still has a risk for other things down the road with having a bone marrow transplant, but it now gives him bone marrow that can fight those infections. Just like any kid he can get a runny nose and whatnot, but now his body can actually respond and fight that bacteria that’s causing it and hopefully be a happy and healthy little kid.”

The ultimate evidence of Koven’s health rebound is the family vacation to Orlando this Christmas. “That’s our big hurrah to take our kid to the germiest place on earth and let his immune system be challenged and excitingly not have to worry about it,” Summers says.

Summers has come to understand the importance of patience, empathy, and hope during trials, and is now excited for his family to enter a new stage of life.

“I just explain the process like walking through the forest. You have a map, so you know where you need to go, but the trail is a little different for everyone,” he says. “There can be trees that have fallen down, but for us, there is now light at the edge of the forest and just a few more trees on the path.”

Service in September: How a BYU Nursing Alumna Raised Money for Childhood Cancer Research

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                      BYU nursing alumna Beth Vanderwalker stands in front several of the gold bows that she helped sell this month to support childhood cancer research.

One of BYU’s slogans is “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” Nursing alumna Beth Vanderwalker (BS ’95) has spent September turning that phrase into reality as she dedicates time to help combat childhood cancer.

“I have always been involved in charity events and promoting causes close to my heart,” she says. This month, that dedication was taken up a notch.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. While not as prevalent as cancer in adults, statistics show that it is the second largest cause of death in children ages five to nine (the first is accidents). The American Cancer Society estimates that this year 10,380 children will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States, and that 1,250 children under the age of fifteen will die from it.

For Vanderwalker, it’s a cause that hits close to home. One of her high school friend’s young daughters passed away from cancer, and her husband lost a brother to it earlier in life. However, she says, “there continues to be very little funds available for pediatric cancer research.”

One organization dedicated to changing that is Cookies for Kids’ Cancer; founded by parents who lost their child to cancer, the group sells cookies to raise money for childhood cancer research. It also organizes fundraising events within communities.

cookies-for-kids-cancer

This year, Vanderwalker worked as a neighborhood representative in her neighborhood’s “Paint the Town Gold” event, which supported Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. This was a mix of fundraising activities, including selling gold bows to hang on mailboxes (gold is the color for National Childhood Cancer Awareness month), getting donations from local businesses, and bake sales. The impact was far-reaching in many aspects, including monetarily.

“In just two weeks, I was able to raise $1100 and have 110 yellow bows displayed throughout our neighborhood,” she says. “Working with other neighborhood representatives, a total of over 1600 bows were sold, raising over $16,000.” This is money that will be donated to help study childhood cancer and how to treat it.

Vanderwalker appreciates how her family and many others have worked together to make this initiative a success, and also that it has been an eye-opener for the neighborhood.

“This has brought awareness of the research needs and has also brought attention to families that live in our community that are fighting this fight,” she says. “When a child gets cancer, you feel helpless.  Much of this burden falls on the family supporting the child.  This event has allowed me to honor these families, remember children that have passed away, and give back in a small way.”

With September coming to a close, Vanderwalker looks forward to getting involved next year. Some may wonder how much impact one person serving can have, but Vanderwalker believes that “every little bit of effort adds up quickly.”

“As a wife, mother, and working full time, it would be easy to think it is too hard to find time for anything more,” she says. “However, this event gave me the opportunity to meet new neighbors, bring awareness to the needs of children and families fighting cancer, and raise money for research.  It’s amazing what you can do with just a few hours to make a difference.”