Saturday, July 30, 2011

Emily's Big Adventure-Part Two

This update required two posts, so I encourage you to scroll down to part one first!  Once I received the offer I immediately accepted.  It felt like accepting a Mercedes over a Toyota, in comparisson to a 12 month fellowship!  I had two weeks to find an apartment, furniture, etc. and move because I really needed to be there at least one week in advance for my health screening and incidentals.  I continued to work through the end of the first week and then had to say goodbye to my City of Wilson family, which was incredibly difficult as they all helped me to learn and grow over the past three years.  Thankfully my dad was able to come in contact with a real estate agent in St. Petersburg who began putting together a listing according to my specifications.  I really didn't have too many...I just wanted an apartment under $750 with a washer and dryer.  My mom and I flew to Tampa/St. Pete Thursday and Friday of the following week, which proved to be another travel nightmare.  We were supposed to fly out of the Greenville airport Wednesday afternoon (we were already in was supposed to be more convenient than driving to RDU!)  Our flight was delayed several times, and finally cancelled.  There was one more flight out of Greenville that night, but we decided just to wait until morning and fly from RDU.  We made it to Tampa Thursday morning, and began visiting properties that afternoon.  The first couple were an immediate no, but our fourth visit was fabulous!  One bedroom apartment, second floor, alarm system, washer/dryer, granite counter tops, etc.  Plus, it's less than 15 minutes from All Children's!

I knew right then and there that this was the one, though I was slightly nervous since it was Friday, my going-away party was the next day, and I planned to leave NC in the moving truck on Monday.  Thinking back on the entire process, it's kind of humorous.  I already had the hotel just over the FL border, moving truck, Busch Gardens tickets, and flights back to NC for my family arranged before I even signed a lease!  I definitely had faith that God was going to bring me through the crazy days ahead!  I am so thankful for my family and friends who helped so much through this process.  There is absolutely no other way I could have made it through the party and moving...a special thanks to Brittany and Matt for providing a great deal of my furniture!  My family and I arrived in St. Petersburg Tuesday afternoon, and immediately began moving things inside.  Moving will definitely make you reconsider how much stuff you have!  When/if I ever move again, I will be enlisting much more help...I think my dad and brother were hurting much more than they admitted the next morning! 

The next morning we drove in to Tampa and stayed for a few days...sort of a last-minute family vacation.  It was such a sweet time for me...I tried to soak in everything I could.  My brother's super-silly jokes that never fail to make me smile, my mom's strength and successful use of sarcasm, and my dad's quiet anxiousness.  I can't begin to describe how hard it was to say goodbye to them on Saturday.  I felt my heart drop...especially when saying goodbye to my brother.  But I remind myself often that they are just a phone call away.  Hopefully we will all learn to use Skype soon! 

I began working as a Certified Child Life Specialist (did I forget to mention I found out that I passed the certification exam the same week I accepted the job offer?) on Monday, July 18th.  I will spend several weeks orienting to the environment before I work independently, which is optimal since this is my first job and in a different environment.  You see, All Children's Hospital is a free-standing children's hospital.  This means that everyone works to provide the best patient care to pediatric patients only, though Child Life specialists take special care to treat the whole child, which involves providing preparation and support to family/friends as well.  I thoroughly enjoy the team I work with, and am excited to work on my unit as well as represent the Child Life volunteer coordinator.

As far as St. Petersburg itself, I know where McDonalds, Steak-n-Shake, Publix, Target, and a mall are.  I have yet to make it out to a beach, but look forward to the opportunity since there are so many choices in the area!  We literally have access to an island called Treasure Island!  I am still working on getting the apartment's really difficult to feel motivated after work. I have been attending the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg and look forward to becoming more involved in community groups and other ministries.  I miss my family, church family, and friends more than I imagined, but I know I am living out God's plan for my life and am so excited about each new step!  I am sure there is so much more I am forgetting to share, but I'm just exhausted!  Please note that I cannot share much about my practice as  CCLS due to HIPAA privacy laws, but will update this blog as regularly as possible about my big adventure!  Sending love to NC!

Emily's Big Adventure-Part One

So much has taken place since my last post!  I am slightly embarrassed that it has been four months...  Where to begin?  I completed my internship April 18th and resumed work with my summer job.  I graduated from ECU May 6th-7th and words cannot describe how odd it felt.  I can't say that I was overjoyed at entering this job market.  Even more than that, all the wonderful memories I had of the past four years continuously flashed through my mind throughout the weekend.  Sitting by the fountain deep in conversation, studying in Joyner Library until it closed, University Chorale, spending way to much time in Dr. Desai's office discussing this or that, and most of all: Hams and Kripsy Kreme!  Oh...and who can forget the RA days!  I had so many wonderful experiences it was hard to think about closing that chapter of my life.  Even more difficult was not knowing what chapter was coming I had no specific leads on a job.  And ya'll know me well enough by now to understand that I am a worry wart.  While it was wonderful to celebrate my commencement with so many family and friends, finding a full time job in the child life field was always in the back of my mind.

A couple of weeks after graduation I had the opportunity to go to Chicago, IL for the national Child Life Conference.  The day before conference began I sat for the Child Life Certification exam.  I was more nervous than I have probably ever been...this exam is somewhat comparable to a Praxis...but specific to child life.  I willingly admit I did not study as much as I should have, but how in the world do you cram four years of lectures and field experiences into a multiple choice exam?  I had already been warned that the exam questions involved several right answers, in which I had to choose the "most right."  Which is quite complex when every child life specialist has his/her own preferences when it comes to clinical practice.  I completed the exam and immediately engaged in conference activities for the remainder of the day, with a fellowship interview that evening (LONG day).  I had to wait six weeks for the results.

In the meantime, I am so thankful I had the opportunity to continue with my summer job while also searching endlessly for a CLS position.  I had little success until mid-June when I was called by a site I had a previous phone interview with for a second phone interview.  Needless to say, I was excited!  I was given permission to go into work late and sent everyone out of the house for the morning.  Everything seemed to go well...except for the fact that the phone line was disconnected twice!  I nearly had a heart-attack and wondered about my chances of an on-site interview.  I was told it would be about a week before on-site candiates were notified, so I went on to work.  That afternoon I received a call asking me to come for an onsite interview!  I knew right away that this was a Wow-God thing.  One week later I flew to St. Petersburg, FL for a full day of interviews.  Travel was a flight out was delayed which caused me to miss my connection in Charlotte...I was supposed to land in Tampa at 7:30 p.m. and did not arrive until about 1:30 a.m.  I was so upset, and vividly remember praying as I was waiting for my carry-on bag (had to be checked due to lack of space) "just a little bit more patience Lord, just a little bit more..." tears literally began rolling down my face.  Another Wow-God moment: out of 6 other people on my shuttle, my hotel was the first stop, more than 20 minutes from the airport!  After preparing my suit and all that jazz, I ended up going to bed around 3 a.m. and waking up at 7 a.m. so I could eat breakfast and arrive at the hospital early.  I had three interviews throughout the day and was utterly exhausted by the time I was done for the day and heading back to the airport.  Of course travel was smooth on the way back...when it wasn't as important! 

I knew I would be waiting seven days to hear back from the hospital, and immediately began praying intensely.  I also took time to fast for several days, and I truly believe this made a difference in my life during this time period.  As you all know, I did receive a call on June 27th offering me the position...and they requested that I start on July 18th.  I was caught off-guard by the short time span, but was reminded of a song which says "Oh my God, he will not refuge and strength always."  Wow-God!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Slow Down!

Well, blogging on a regular basis has been a complete fail on my part! There are some days I am utterly exhausted and simply cannot think about one more task...I'm sure some of my fellow child life interns can sympathize! 

So here is the update on where I'm at right now:
I completed my inpatient rotation the first week of March and have been working in the ED since then.  I only have five weeks left and then graduation...I simply cannot process how fast this experience has gone by!  My goals lately have been to complete my special project, fine-tune my resume, apply to jobs (anywhere and everywhere) and register for the Child Life certification exam being held at national conference in Chicago, May 26. 

I absolutely love my work in the ED!  I experienced a taste of child life in the ED in my practicum at WakeMed last semester and am simply amazed at the difference it makes in the a child's healthcare experience.  You see, many times children who come in the ED are experiencing the hospital environment for the first time.  Something like an IV, MRI, or CT can seem foreign and scary when a child has led a relatively healthy life.  On the other end of the spectrum, we have children who come in as 'frequent flyers' who have been hospitalized numerous times and are well aware of what a visit to the ED may entail.  Words cannot express how great it feels to finally apply everything I have learned and work independently.

In the coming weeks as I am applying to jobs I would really appreciate all of your prayers!  I am applying particularly to jobs that are open for ED positions, but am applying all throughout the north/south east as well as midwest (mainly Texas).   I have no idea what God has in store, but am thankful that I still have the opportunity to continue working for Wilson Energy through the summer until I have secured a full-time job.  The child life field is small and it is difficult to secure a job right after graduating-many job postings want at least 1-2 years of experience.  However I feel confident that God already knows the doors he will open for me...I just have to be willing to take each step.  I promise will try to keep this blog updated as my last few weeks unfold!  Thanks everyone for your thoughts and prayers!

Friday, February 4, 2011

You're are made for so much more than all of this.

What a whirlwind the past few weeks have been!  I barely have time to finish charting when I come home, let alone update this blog!  I am continuing in my first rotation and have experienced so many things since the first two weeks.  I am learning SO much and am working on integrating my textbook knowledge into clinical practice.  This is more difficult than I expected...for 3.5 years child life students have developmental knowledge pounded into our brains, but actually putting that knowledge into practice with a patient is very different.  I thought for sure I would enter this internship with great confidence in the skills that I have formed, yet I feel a lot like a high school freshman surrounded by seniors.  Thankfully those "seniors" are offering a lot of feedback and advice that I can learn from and use in my own interactions with patients.

So far I have learned a lot about short-gut (little to no working small intestine), cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, and much more.  I have become particularly interested in cystic fibrosis, as these patients go through so much.  Unlike a diagnosis such as cancer, there is no major treatment for this disease.  These patients must wear a vest two-four times per day which vibrates the mucus out of their organs.  Duke has begun offering double-lung transplants for children who qualify but this is not a cure since mucus still collects in the intestines.  The life expectancy of a person with this disease is about 30 years of age at most.  It is so hard for me to look into the faces of these children and have such knowledge...  When CF patients have to come in for inpatient treatment because their breathing has become severely compromised, they remain on contact precautions and isolation the entire time.  This means that any person who enters the room must wear a gown, mask, and gloves because of the mucus they are constantly hacking up.  Since these patients are on isolation, they cannot go to the playroom unless I or one of the other specialists has time to set up a private play session when no other patients are allowed into the playroom.  CF patients must never interact with another person who has CF and they cannot be within three feet of any patient at any time.  My interactions with adolescents with CF have been somewhat disheartening...depression is common as well as lethargy.  All I can think of when interacting with these older patients is this song by Mercy Me:

Days will come when you don't have the strength
And all you hear is you're not worth anything
Wondering if you ever could be loved
And if they truly saw your heart
They'd see too much

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful

Praying that you have the heart to fight
Cuz you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you've held inside so long
But they are nothing in the shadow of the cross

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful...

These patients are made for so much more than all of this...all of the PICC lines, tube feedings, breathing treatments, vest treatments, PFT's, etc.  I wish they could see this in themselves!

I have had the opportunity to be present for many meetings and rounds the past few weeks, including quality of life.  These meetings are to asses a patient's current quality of life and plan for necessary changes in order for he/she to have the most positive life they can for as long as possible, even if this means just a few months.  These meetings are often emotionally charged and difficult to observe.  I have NEVER seen a medical staff so passionate about their patients.  Nurses, physicians, PA's, med students, social workers, etc. all meet together and come to a consensus on what the next step for the patient should be, whether it prolongs the patient's life or simply provides him/her with a more pain-free, active life for the time that is left.  Every single person in the room cares deeply for the child being discussed and will do whatever it takes to make every second count for that child.  I have never seem such caring teamwork in any of my child life-hospital experiences. 

What a blessing this internship has been so far...I am learning more about myself each day as I learn more about the child life field.  Please continue in prayer for the patients I interact with on a daily basis and the future interactions that will occur.  Also, please consider donating to the MIX 101.5 Radiothon for Duke Children's Hospital on February 15th - 17th.  I promise you it makes a difference!  And even beyond simply giving $20 to the cause, give until it hurts.  That gives you only an inkling of an idea of what these patients' parents go through when their child is admitted.  If you still need some convincing just watch this video clip if you have a few minutes:  And please tell your friends and family about the radiothon and encourage them to give!

Monday, January 17, 2011

This is only the beginning...

I know it has been more than a week since my last post, but I have been super busy!  Monday (my first day) was mainly spent going over paperwork, policies, meeting the team, etc.  Tuesday an ice storm hit the area and I was unable to make it into Durham.  Wednesday I shadowed a CLS in the pre-op area, and later on in the pediatric emergency department.  Thursday morning I spent time in the PCICU & PICU, and spent the rest of my afternoon in the PBMT (pediatric bone marrow transplant) unit.  Before I go on, I must tell you that Thursday was the most amazing day I have ever experienced in all of my child life studies/career.  More specifically, the time I spent in the PBMT was truly a reminder to me of why I am pursuing this career.

You see, Duke is pretty much the number one hospital in the U.S., and across many nations for bone marrow transplants and coinciding treatment.  When a patient is scheduled to have a bone marrow transplant (either from their own healthy marrow, donor marrow, or cord blood) the lives of his/her family literally turn upside down.  Since a bone marrow transplant and chemo treatments make the patient's immune system virtually disappear, they have to commit to staying on the PBMT unit for a number of months in order to avoid infection/rejection issues.  Duke requires that one caregiver stay in the room with the patient 24/7 and that another caregiver live in the Durham area in order to provide an alternate support in the case that one wants to leave the unit for a hair cut, doctor appointment, or sickness.  If any member of the patient's family is sick, he/she is not allowed on the unit until completely cleared by a physician.  The PBMT unit literally consists of 16 beds on two hallways, a play/game room, a parent room, work-out room, and nursing station.  Patients on this unit may not step outside of it for weeks at a time. 

It is not until the patient's body accepts a certain number of cells that he/she is allowed off of the unit and even allowed to go outpatient.  Day 100 is generally a mile-marker for this.  After taking in all of this information, I was able to accompany the CLS in the playroom for a game of bingo with many of the patients and their siblings.  I was simply in awe of the feeling of support and comradery amongst the patients.  I remember one particular young guy, who shouted for his mom saying "mommy, mommy...guess what...I ate a whole plate of spaghetti!  I love spaghetti!"  I was so close to tears when I saw the smile on his face.  Eating is a HUGE deal for these patients because (as a result of chemo) canker sores form inside of their mouths, gums, and down their esophagus, making it entirely too painful to eat.  So this little guy's statement to his mom meant so much for me to hear.  It really brought me back to the reality that not one of us has anything valid to complain about.  Children, teenagers, and even infants in the PBMT are fighting their own bodies to live...even as I type this now I cannot help but tear up.  I continued to watch everyone around the table playing bingo and realized that age, nationality, skin color, all of these things make no difference to these patients and their families.  They are all one community fighting these battles together.

Even once these patients are allowed to go outpatient, they must live within 15 minutes of the hospital and visit the clinic every day for testing.  During this time period they are not allowed to be in public places (other than the hospital)...this means no restaurants, malls, movie theaters, etc.  I say all this to remind each of you to be thankful for your health and the health of your family.  And remember to support those you come to know that are fighting cancer and will be facing a bone marrow transplant. 

On Friday morning I spent more time on the PBMT unit and then transitioned back to PICU/PCICU.  I experienced so much this week that I can hardly express all of it in this posting.  Tomorrow I will begin full time for the next seven weeks on an inpatient unit. I would like to end each post with lyrics to a song that has touched my life in the past week, and I have chosen "Held" by Natalie Grant.  Please read these words...

Two months is too little, they let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling

Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We're asking why this happens to us

Who have died to live, it's unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

If hope if born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait for one hour
Watching for our Savior

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Moving, Unpacking, and Preparing

After spending much of my wonderful Christmas break anticipating tomorrow, I have finally moved to Cary (as of today), have unpacked most of my things, and am prepared for my first day of internship.  I mean, as prepared as someone who has never driven in Durham traffic (let alone in winter weather) can possibly be.  I have laid my 'first day outfit' out, packed my lunch, and put together my bag for tomorrow.  Maybe I am overly prepared?  But how can you possibly nonchalantly walk into an opportunity like this?  I feel nervous, excited, and so many other emotions right now!  Tomorrow I will literally begin my career.  This internship carries a lot of weight into future job recommendations and possibly even a job offer. 

I continuously pray for the children and families that I will come into contact with...I hope that all of the knowledge and experience I have stored up will be adequately meet their needs.  I pray that I will remain positive...even in the darkest of situations (particularly death).  I also pray that I will keep things in perspective...that this is NOT ABOUT ME.  This experience is about the children and families I will have an opportunity to assist.  I also pray for this job you often have to advocate for the needs of the patient over the will of the medical team, and this can often hurt your rapport with your co-workers.  I fear that I may face a situation in which I choose pleasing those who surround me day after day rather than acting in the best interest of the child.

My biggest fear is probably the winter weather that is scheduled to hit Durham tomorrow afternoon.  I am not familiar with Durham or its accompanying traffic, which will be even worse when winter weather is added into the equation.  Please pray that those drivers surrounding me will drive smartly and safely, as I also will be.

I am SO EXCITED about tomorrow, and will update you as I am able.  All I know right now is that I will be rotating through each unit for a few hours per day, and will begin my inpatient rotation next week. 

"In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

First let me say how excited I am to be sharing this journey with all of my family and other loved ones!  I have waited four years for what I am about to begin...excited does not even begin to describe how I feel!  For those of you who do not know, I will begin interning with the Duke Children's Hospital Child and Adolescent Life program beginning January 10th and will continue full time through the end of April.  Child life programs provide an extra support for patients and their families while they are in the healthcare environment.  As child life specialists, our job is to advocate for the best interests of the patient and family, provide preparation for procedures, offer an alternate focus during procedures, assist in the bereavement process when necessary, and much more, all the while promoting normal development of the patient.  If you would like to understand this career field a little better, please visit this link to view a short clip of a day in the life of a child life specialist:  I am more than passionate for this career field...which started when I was a high school senior.  In Wilson Co., NC high school seniors are expected to complete a senior project.  I was in AP English at the time and was strongly encouraged by my teacher to branch out and implement a project that would impact more than just myself.  My thoughts immediately shifted to my older brother, who has experienced numerous hospitalizations throughout his lifetime.  I decided that I would plan a project in the hopes of making a difference at Duke.  I teamed up with a child life specialist at Duke Children's and knew right away that I wanted to pursue that career.  Thankfully East Carolina University (45 minutes from my home) offered child life as a degree program-one of the few, if not the only in NC.  I was accepted into the major in the spring of 2007 and have been faithfully pursuing it ever since. 

This year has been a turning point in my education...I have been preparing for these opportunities since my sophomore year.  I recently completed a 120 hour practicum with the WakeMed child life program while also pursuing an internship.  For those of you who were placed in an internship by a professor or thankful.  I spent half of my summer and what seemed like every waking moment from August 25th-September 5th completing applications, collecting recommendation letters, etc. in preparation for sending out internship application packets.  Although I knew how much work I put into my academics and every other aspect of the packets I sent off (a total of 8), I knew that the decision was ultimately in God's hands.  I took extra time to place a small label inside the packets saying "not my will Lord, but yours be done."  Little did I know how much I would be tested on that statement of faith.  I was able to obtain five interviews (first phone interviews, then on-site) and became a finalist for three of them.  I was accepted at Duke right away, but was still waiting to hear from two other hospitals, one of them being my top choice.  A couple of days after the initial offer from Duke, I received an offer from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and found out that my top choice was offered to the other finalist.  I was disappointed at first, but after waiting two weeks to hear after many of the other ECU child life students already had their placements, I was simply happy to know that I had one and I would be graduating in May.  It was a difficult decision to make, but I ultimately felt that my heart was leading me to Duke.  Perhaps it was the fact that they offered to me first...I'm not sure.  But I do know that God was a major part in the decision, because he has paved the way for me...I have a place to live with a family friend which is a MAJOR concern when considering the lack of safety precautions and astronomical rent rates in the Durham area.  After making the decision, my mom pointed out to me that both sites who ultimately offered an internship to me were the only two hospitals out of the eight that I applied to which my brother received treatment in. 

In preparation for beginning the internship on January 10th (less than two weeks away), I am moving out of my Greenville apartment on Friday!  I am not a fan of moving...especially this move as it closes a huge chapter of my life.  I will no longer be walking to Wright Place for lunch or practically living in the Rivers building.  I won't be participating in the Polar Bear Plunge, going to ECU baseball games, or working with my fellow ECU Ambassadors.  Although these realizations bring many emotions to the surface, I know that I am embarking on the opportunity of a lifetime.  I have the awesome opportunity and responsibility to impact the lives of pediatric patients and their families...and I cannot wait!