Our Nurse of the Week is Sara Huffaker, a senior nursing student at Pittsburg State University (PSU), who has been donating her hair to help make wigs for cancer patients for over a decade. Inspired by her own hair donations, Huffaker decided to organize a donation drive on PSU’s campus. Discussing her decision to organize the donation drive, Huffaker told Pittsburg’s MorningSun.net:
“I’ve been doing this since I was in fourth grade. I was donating last year and thought ‘why isn’t everyone doing this?’ So I decided to get to work.”
The goal of her event was to receive eight donations – enough to make one wig. They already had eight people lined up by the time the donation drive was opening, and had over 64 donations by the end of the day, enough for eight wigs. After far exceeding Huffaker’s expectations, she decided that the hair drive will be a yearly event in the future, occurring on the first Saturday in February.
Huffaker is the Breakthrough to Nursing Program leader for PSU’s chapter of the Kansas Association of Nursing Students. Using her position there, she partnered with Wild Side Salon to organize the drive and ended up with hairdressers from multiple salons volunteering to donate their time. Donations were made through Pantene Beautiful Lengths in partnership with the American Cancer Society.
You can read the original story on Huffaker’s hair donation drive here.
Kristen Noles, a nurse manager at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital, was breastfeeding her youngest child five years ago when she found a hardened area in her breast. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Noles embarked on a journey of aggressive cancer treatment. Now 40, and the mom of three kids aged 7, 11, and 15, Noles is using her personal battle with cancer to help other patients.
Noles’ mother, Madeline Harris, is an oncology nurse and the director of Birmingham’s Women’s Breast Health Fund which provides supportive care services for women with breast cancer. Her experience as an oncology nurse helped Noles immensely through her treatments, bringing the pair closer and making them determined to work together to make cancer patients’ lives fulfilling.
With no breast cancer risk factors or family history of the disease, Noles’ diagnosis was shocking to her, but she was determined to fight her cancer and embrace every moment of her life going forward. Despite her aggressive treatment approach, it was important for Noles to keep working. She would return to work as quickly as possible following her chemotherapy treatments and she finished her graduate studies during treatment despite a number of surgical and chemo complications.
Wanting to make her journey with battling cancer about other patients who she could positively impact, Harris told Parade.com, “We started thinking, How can we use this to further our understanding of what it’s like to be the family member of a patient.” Noles recalls how she would think of her patients on her toughest days, especially after she received some unsupportive reactions from coworkers and fellow healthcare providers after her hair fell out.
Now five years after her diagnosis, Noles hopes to share her experiences with other patients and use her experiences, both good and bad, in her approach to teaching as an adjunct faculty member at the UAB School of Nursing. In 2013, she became a co-founder of the Courage Network, a breast cancer survivor group made up of UAB staff who provide support to fellow employees facing their own cancer journeys. She wants all UAB employees to know they have a support system during hardships. Noles’ cancer experience also inspired her mother who has since awarded more than $1.3 million to area nonprofits to provide services for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones in her position as director of the Women’s Breast Health Fund.
We want to thank our Nurse of the Week, Kristen Noles, and her mother Madeline Harris, for their inspiring works as nurses to positively influence other healthcare providers and cancer patients in their own community and beyond.
Our Nurse of the Week is Rachel Adrian, a registered nurse (RN) from Missouri who has devoted her career to humanitarian relief work. Adrian’s career in relief work began in 2006 when she joined a Katrina relief team to help with disaster relief for thousands of people left homeless after devastating Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the US. Her relief work has since taken her around the world from her start in the US to South America, Kenya, and most recently to Iraq.
With an education background including a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Missouri Western State University and a Master of Public Health (MPH) from Liberty University, Adrian is well qualified for her relief service. After helping the Katrina Relief Team, Adrian went on to work with Project Amazon setting up mobile health clinics throughout the Amazon basin of Brazil, work as PACU Nurse for the Mexico Surgery Caravan Clinic, and serve as a Mobile Clinic Nurse with Heart to Heart International in Haiti. Her humanitarian ventures then took her halfway across the globe as a nurse volunteer with a hospital in Kenya before continuing on to volunteer and work in Iraq.
After moving to Iraq several years ago, Adrian ended up settling into several humanitarian nursing positions. As a Health Program Administrator for Samaritans Purse, Adrian helped establish a new clinic in Iraq while also teaching English as a second language to local citizens. She also held a position as an Emergency Nurse at Oasis Hospital in the United Arab Emirates.
Adrian’s personal life recently brought her into US news after she welcomed a healthy baby boy on Feb. 2. Her husband and baby’s father is Hoger Ameen, a Kurdish man from Northern Iraq who she met three years ago after moving to Iraq for relief work. They married the following year and began making plans to move to the US to start a family. After settling down temporarily in Iraq while they applied for a spousal visa, Adrian moved back home to Missouri in July to wait for her husband. According to People.com, the couple was told in December that Ameen’s application was in the last steps of processing but after a recent executive order enacting a travel ban on citizens from seven countries including Iraq, Ameen received an email notifying him that his visa had been suspended.
The couple isn’t sure what the travel ban means for them yet, but they are hopeful that Ameen can return to the US as soon as possible to meet his newborn son. We want to show our gratitude to Rachel for her inspiring humanitarian work that has positively affected communities around the world thanks to her dedicated service as a nurse.
Our Nurse of the Week is Brandy Smith, a 28-year-old who was working clinical rotations and taking nursing courses as a student at the University of Kentucky (UK) when she was diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer. Determined not to let her breast cancer diagnosis hinder her progress toward becoming a nurse, Smith consulted her professors and the dean of the UK College of Nursing who all supported her decision to continue with school and her intensive treatment plan at the same time. Discussing her experience with KYForward.com, Smith said, “Some people said I should take some time off nursing school. For me, movement is medicine.”
For Smith, beating cancer and finishing school weren’t enough. She also thrives on activity and set herself a goal of finishing next year’s breast cancer awareness race as a runner and survivor. The physical activity of walking, and running when she has the energy for it, boosted Smith’s immune system to help her body through depressive treatments. She gained her positive outlook and perseverance from her mother who never let anything affect her good mood when she beat breast cancer at age 26 and battled a recurrence at age 30.
After deciding to continue with her career goals despite her diagnosis, Smith continued her clinical and classroom hours while undergoing 12 weeks of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and radiation treatment. She also decided to undergo oncofertility treatment, which induces menopause during chemotherapy to preserve reproductive functioning, allowing Smith to keep her goal of having a family one day. With the help and support of her husband, family, and nursing class, Smith was announced cancer-free on October 5, and graduated from nursing school in December with plans to go into pediatric oncology.
Always with a positive outlook, Smith summed up her experience with this: “As much fun as I’ve had, it’s been horrible at times. But it could have been worse – I got to have milkshakes every day.” To read more about Brandy Smith’s inspiring journey to remission while keeping up with the demands of nursing school, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Loretta Bledsoe, a critical care nurse from Longwood, FL who helped deliver a 2-pound, 4-ounce baby on her flight home to Orlando before the plane made an emergency landing in Charleston.
Bledsoe was an hour into her flight from Philadelphia when the flight attendant made an announcement about a medical emergency and asked if any doctors or nurses were on board. A nurse for more than 40 years with a range of experience from intensive-care to pediatrics, Bledsoe was well qualified to help deliver a baby. She turned on her call light to let the flight attendant know she could help and was brought to the front of the plane where a young woman was hunched over in a window seat.
The pregnant woman didn’t look very far along but said that her water had broken and minutes later Bledsoe was holding a tiny baby boy in her arms. Another passenger, an emergency-room doctor from Pennsylvania, helped stabilize the mother while the flight attendants and pilot planned for an emergency landing to get the new baby and his parents to a local hospital.
Surprisingly, the mom and dad had already added ‘Jet’ to their list of baby names and they decided it was the perfect fit after baby Jet was born mid-flight. Bledsoe later found out that the mom whose baby she had delivered was also a nurse. Talking about the events of that day, Bledsoe told OrlandoSentinel.com, “But you always use your nursing background, always. It’s like riding a bike: You never forget.”
Bledsoe has spoken to the mother a few times since about updates that the baby is doing much better. She hopes to meet the family again when they return home to Central Florida. To learn more about Bledsoe’s courageous mid-flight baby delivery, you can view her interview with OrlandoSentinel.com.
Our Nurse of the Week is Gaithersburg High School in Maryland where students are learning how to nurse by practicing on nursing home patients. As part of a partnership with Ingleside at King Farm, a Rockville retirement community with a nursing home on site, a dozen students from the high school program are training to become certified nursing assistants and geriatric nursing assistants.
Now in the second year of the intensive program, the goal is to prepare students for careers in healthcare. Students don’t pay tuition for the program funded by William Leahy, a neurologist on Ingleside’s board of directors who founded the program and hopes to expand it. The students are taught by Linda Hall, a nursing professor at Montgomery College’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education division.
Students in the program are part of a 4 day-a-week course that takes place outside school hours. It combines 88 hours of classroom learning with 60 hours of clinical training and working with actual residents at Ingleside. After completing the program, students are eligible to apply for nursing assistant state certification or take the geriatric nursing assistant (GNA) exam.
To learn more about the students in the program and their experiences, visit The Washington Post.