In celebration of Nurse’s Week, I’d like to share an inspiring story about a nurse with whom I work with, Beth Ann Hedrick, RN, BSN.

To look at Beth today, you would never know that she is a breast cancer survivor who had a battle with death and won.

My first encounter with Beth was via the telephone approximately 14 years ago, when I called the labor and delivery suite of our local hospital. In 2006, I was surprised to learn that Beth joined our health department as a supervisory nurse. After 18 years of working in the hospital, she had a calling to provide public service. However shortly after Beth started her new position, she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.  One of her most difficult challenges was breaking the news to her three children and husband, who had been recuperating from recent back surgery.

Two days after Christmas in 2006, Beth underwent a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction. What was supposed to be a four-hour procedure took 12 hours instead. Beth awoke in the ICU on a ventilator and remained in the hospital for the next two weeks. Thirteen days after her procedure she encountered severe low back pain inhibiting her ability to walk. Three physicians diagnosed her with back strain as the result of her breast reconstruction. However, the pain persisted and she insisted on seeing her primary physician. During the car ride to his office, she screamed and writhed in pain. Upon her arrival, her primary care physician immediately called 911 and she was admitted to the hospital. A diagnostic MRI revealed possible metastasis to the bone and she was taken to the OR.

The neurosurgeon found a pocket of pus as he had prepared to operate on her spine. The “bone metastasis” was actually a MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus) infection that would have killed her, had it ruptured. Beth spent the next 12 weeks in and out of the hospital and self-administered IV antibiotics twice a day during that time period. Her breast implants were removed and her chemo therapy was postponed for six months.

Beth had economic setbacks as well. She lost her home and depleted her 401K retirement savings. However, despite insurmountable obstacles, her three children excelled in school and her husband remained by her side.

Fast-forward to the present: Beth’s daughter, Megan, is graduating from Oprah Winfrey’s alma mater, Tennessee State University at the age of 20 on an athletic full-scholarship and there has been a documentary highlighting her accomplishments (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UV8thlMSzW0). Her son, Matthew has also received a full-athletic scholarship to play football at West Virginia State and her youngest son is doing well in elementary school. Beth is cancer-free and is enrolled in a graduate program to become an advanced nurse practitioner.

Happy Nurse’s Day, Beth. You’re an inspiration to us all, and may your light continue to shine.