[Photo, top: iStock]
One of the top award winners of the CIA Medical 2020 Scholarship honoring healthcare heroes is Eden Riviera, a student studying Early Childhood Development and minoring in Child Psychology at Saint Petersburg College.
Edens’s winning essay shares her experiences with different medical conditions, and Denise, the nurse whose caring comfort helped her face her fears. Denise showed incredible compassion when treating Eden during numerous procedures. We’re inspired by Eden’s determination to use her life experiences to support others who are going through similar challenges.
CIA Medical is proud to present Eden’s 2020 Scholarship Award winning essay on her nurse at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Denise.
My Special Friend Denise
An essay by Eden Riviera
My story begins in 9th grade. I started struggling medically since I was born, but in 9th grade things got bad. I was weak, tired, dizzy, unable to walk, passing out, and having headaches. My mother was my biggest advocate and through two years of doctors’ appointments I was diagnosed with POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). When I was 14 the doctors finally found out what was wrong. Over the course of two more years they discovered that I also have Hypothyroidism, Hypoglycemia, and Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. I am currently on 12 different medications to manage the illnesses that I have. I also go to infusion treatment twice a week for 4 hours to help with my blacking out and dizziness. After I was diagnosed, I was not healthy enough to pursue my dream of being an early college student and focusing on my education. When I was 15 that changed. I told myself that the things that I have been labeled with that my body is fighting every day would not define me. I took the test to enter college the next week. I signed up for three classes my first semester. My parents allowed me to go on campus for one class if I used my wheelchair. My first semester was tough, I was struggling with being able to focus on school as well as my lack of energy. I got sick one week and passed out three times in one day, my mom took me to the emergency room. I remember in the ambulance asking her if I could still make it to my on-campus class the next day. School and early college has helped me focus on something else than my health and how I am feeling every day.
When I was 17 in October of 2019, I met with several doctors who thought they could help me medically. At this point I had already been going to infusion for two months and things were getting better, but not perfect. They wanted me to have an MRI of my abdomen, an Endoscopy and Stomach biopsy and a skin Biopsy. I have had procedures done before, but they had always been spaced out. I would never admit it to my parents, but I was scared. The MRI was easy and happened first. Then the Endoscopy, and that is where my story with Denise begins.
Denise was my intake nurse at John’s Hopkins All Children’s Hospital for the Endoscopy. I arrived at the hospital at 8 am and waited for two hours in pre check in. I was tired and hungry. They said the endoscopy itself would only be ten minutes and I would be asleep the whole time. My mom and I were led to the pre-op room around 11am. Denise has brown short hair, a big smile, and sounded like she was happy with everything she said. She helped me change into my gown and sat down on my bed as she took my vitals. She made me relax and instantly feel comfortable in a situation that had me scared. When it was time for my IV, I warned her that because of my infusions twice a week my veins were going to be difficult to find and she may have to poke more than once. With that knowledge she grabbed an ultraviolet IV finder to make my usual 3-4 pokes for and IV 1 and done. I was so grateful. When the doctor came in, he quickly went through what would happen and then left. I turned to Denise and she said, “Okay honey, what he meant to say at the end was if you have any questions, I am here to answer them, so please ask away” and I did. Through conversation as she was waiting with me before the surgery, I found out that she has won 31 daisies at All Children’s. Daisies are awarded when a nurse has shown great help, love, and kindness to their patient. Denise instantly bonded to me and my situation and took care of me like I was her own daughter. It was time for my surgery close to 12:30pm. After waiting for so long my nerves were killing me. Now was not the time to be nervous and Denise saw that I was. As she rolled me back to the operation area I started to hyperventilate. My mom was already in the waiting room and it was just me. Denise rolled me into the room where the Endoscope would be performed. As she came close to whisper good luck, I grabbed her hand. I said the words that I would not say to anyone “I am scared”. Me the girl who has gone through so much feared a little procedure. She said these word which I will never forget “Eden this is nothing compared to what you have walked through, I know right now this is everything, but in the future it will be a speck in your review mirror.” With that I felt ready, she left and they gave me anesthesia. When I woke up in post-op, I felt awful. Because of the biopsy taken out of my stomach I was in a good amount of pain. Even though Denise was a pre-op nurse she came to post-op and helped me. She gave my history to the other nurses and gave me medication to help with my stomach pain. When the pain was bearable, they allowed me to leave. I did not get a chance to say goodbye to Denise. I regretted that.
“She sat down on my hospital bed and held my hands, she asked what I wanted to do. I told her that I was unsure and confused. She told me that if I still wanted to do the surgery that she could make a way to be back there with me. I said yes.”
Two weeks later I was scheduled for the Biopsy. I was to be awake for this procedure, they were going to take a pen hole and a half a pencil tube from my ankle. They said it should take about 30 minutes for the procedure. I was in pre check in and nervous. We got there early and did not get back till 11am. When I was taken back with my mom to the pre-op room, they had me sit down in a bed. As I was getting my room ready and preparing my meds for the nurse, you will never guess who came in. Denise was my pre-op nurse once again! I felt safe and I knew that it would be okay. She and I caught up like old friends as I shared my medicine and other pre-op information. We waited for several hours as they seemed to be behind in the surgery center. With other patients she came and went a couple times as I was waiting to be taken back. The doctor came in and walked through the procedure once again except in the consult he left out one detail. He would not only take one sample from my leg, but also from my upper leg. I was in a mini panic. He had never mentioned two spots before, and this changed the procedure. My mother told him that we needed a minute. My mom has never even taken me to the doctors without me knowing what was going to happen first. When me and my sibling were younger and would go for shots, she would tell us exactly what to expect so that we would not be afraid. That did not stop me from running away from the doctor once, but it still helped me prepare. Denise came in and asked what was happening, we told her what the doctor told us. My mom said that if I wanted to cancel the surgery I could. My mom left to go call my dad and Denise came over to talk. It was like I was talking to one of my best friends. She sat down on my hospital bed and held my hands, she asked what I wanted to do. I told her that I was unsure and confused. She told me that if I still wanted to do the surgery that she could make a way to be back there with me. I said yes.
The next hour was a blur. They finished everything in pre-op and wheeled me back. This was even more scary than my first procedure that month. I was lying in the bed awake. My hospital gown was on and exposed my entire right leg. Denise was on my left as I lied down and tried to breathe. My vitals were making noise and I remember her telling me that I needed to breathe slowly. The doctor and his scrub nurses told me that I would feel a pinch. The than gave me the numbing shot. It barely hurt and I felt like I could do this. I asked Denise to talk to me, while she was talking, they proceeded to take the first biopsy in my ankle. The numbing shot had not had enough time to work and I felt the entire thing. I have never cried in pain before, every poke at infusion, every procedure, every time I hit my head from passing out, every time I didn’t do well in school because I was at the hospital or in the ER. All those things cause me pain either physical or mental, and not once have I cried about it, but as they were taking out a tub of my skin I silently cried. Denise saw me and told me it was almost over. She asked the doctor to stop moving the tub inside of me until the numbing shot kicked in. We waited for several minutes till the pain turned into a pinch and was bearable. The second spot did not hurt as much, and Denise talked with me the entire time. She asked me questions about one of the things I love the most. School. She asked me what I wanted to do, how I was going to get there, and why I wanted to do it. After we finished the doctors were done as well. She was able to wheel me out to post-op to meet my mom.
I not only made an amazing friend through these surgeries at All Children’s but I was also able to know an person who takes someone’s fears and helps. She was one of the first people I showed my pain to. I felt close enough to her that I was able to show her that I was not okay. Denise was the first person to see me cry and stay with me. She made me feel okay to not be okay. I will always remember Denise as the women who helped me when I was in pain. She will never leave my memory and I hope to see her in the future when I have more procedures done.
About the Author: Eden Riviera
Eden believes that she will achieve excellence through the continuation of her academic career. She started college in 10th grade and has completed her AA as well as my High School Degree in May 2020, and December 2020. She is majoring in Early Childhood Development and minoring in Child Psychology. Eden believes that anything worth obtaining is worth working for. With her degree, she plans to be a teacher for children in the hospital. She would like to be stationed at infusion centers and help children with their schoolwork. She has seen teachers come into All Children’s and have been able to witness the light they bring. She looks forward to continuing to fight for he educational dreams and pursue her passions through the trials.
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