Nurse to graduate in spite of cerebral palsy
By KATINA TENGESDAL, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Carla Pease always wanted to be a nurse. Now, she is one – but it hasn’t been easy.
At age three, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She admired the nurses who took care of her.
“I was never one of those kids that said I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer. I always knew I wanted to be a nurse,” said Pease, of Garrison. “When I was three, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and I spent a lot of time in the hospital having surgeries. The nurses were the ones who took care of me.
“I knew I wouldn’t be happy being anything other than a nurse,” she added.
On top of her many surgeries beginning at a young age, Pease recalls developing reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) – a condition that attacks the nervous system after a surgery or some type of trauma – when she was 16.
Yet she still held on to the hope that she could be a nurse one day.
“When I was 16, I made a deal with God. When they told me I had RSD, I prayed so hard that I would push wheelchairs every day of my life, so long as it wasn’t mine. If I do have to push my own wheelchair some day, everything up to that point was worth it,” Pease said.
“It has been brought to my attention that physically, nursing isn’t the best career for me to go into, but I would rather have 10 seconds of something meaningful than a lifetime of doing nothing special,” she added.
Pease finished her LPN degree through the Dakota Nursing Program this past July, and she’ll finish the RN program in May. She hopes to continue on to get her masters in nursing. She credits the help of the Dakota Nursing Program and the students in it for her success.
“Everybody in the Dakota Nursing Program was really wonderful. They didn’t wait to see me struggle with something. Tthey always offered me help if I needed it. They never treated me any differently with my cerebral palsy. They never gave me the easy patient to take care of or anything,” Pease said.
“I never felt like I was a second-class nursing student because of my cerebral palsy,” she added.
When Pease needed to have a joint repair surgery done on her foot during spring break, those in the nursing program were supportive, as was the community. Pease received braces nearly free of charge through a program called Jerene’s Wish, a program in Garrison supplying free orthotics to children who need them. Jerene’s Wish made an exception in Pease’s case, though she was over 18, and offered her braces for a fraction of the normal cost.
“The day I had taken my state boards for my LPN degree, I had received braces from Jerene’s Wish. They put the braces on me nearly free of cost. I was getting them for nearly a tenth of what they would be. It was amazing for a struggling college student,” Pease said.
The Dakota Nursing Program has supported her all along. She began her schooling with the program through Williston State College, and has attended classes at the Fort Berthold Community College site and at the Minot State site.
Fort Berthold Community College is sponsoring her in her latest venture – a preceptorship at a Tampa, Fla., Shriner’s Hospital, where she will be exploring one of her areas of interest in the nursing field. Pease will be at that hospital from Jan. 5-9.
Pease is no stranger to the Shriner’s Hospital. She had many surgeries and therapies at a Shriner’s Hospital in Minneapolis, from the time she was three until she turned 21. She’s excited to return to one to work.
“I have the opportunity to work in what is called the motion analysis lab. There are very few of them in the U.S., probably 20 or less. It’s a state-of-the-art facility at Shriner’s that studies how children move with joint and muscle problems. I will be taking care of surgical patients that have cerebral palsy,” Pease said.
Pease likes to focus on preventive care, and she encouraged parents to be proactive.
“With kids that are young, if you’re noticing they have trouble walking, or they’re walking on their tip toes, don’t ignore it. Parents think that if they ignore it, it will go away, and that’s not the case. Any child that has trouble walking or with balance, they need to take them to a specialist,” Pease said.
Another area of interest for her is geriatrics, where she hopes to stress the importance of preventive care as well.
“I really want to focus on preventive health care in the elderly. They don’t really seek medical attention until there is multiple health problems. We (health care providers) suggest having a physical at an earlier age instead of waiting until your cholesterol is out of control or you’ve already had the heart attack,” Pease said.
“Health maintenance is really important. I was in physical therapy a lot when I was younger, to prevent complications from developing. That’s something I learned from Shriner’s and the Dakota Nursing Program – it’s important to stop problems before they start,” she added.
Pease is looking forward to her career, and she hopes to extend the same care to others that she has received.
“I’ve been in the hospital, depending on people to do every little thing for me. I want to be there for my patients like that,” Pease said.
“Ultimately, in every patient situation, I want to be the nurse that makes the bad things seem not so bad, and the good things seem a little bit better,” she added.