All of us can likely think of a significant event in our lives that changed us forever. For Jenni Johnson, RN on 4 East at Johnston-Willis Hospital, that event was the medical miracle of her only child’s, Wyatt’s, first year of life in 1995.
Jenni knew something was wrong with Wyatt’s breathing right away, but her pediatrician at the time suggested all was normal. Jenni insisted that more evaluation was needed so she brought him to Dr. Mary Falterman, Pediatric Cardiologist, who diagnosed Wyatt with a coarctation of the aorta, a congenital condition where the heart’s aorta is twisted like a sock, blocking 99% of the flow of blood. At the time Wyatt was 2.5 months old and weighed only 13 pounds. Jenni brought him to HCA’s Henrico Doctors’ Hospital where they cared for her baby for three months in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and, later, the Pediatric floor. During the long hospitalization, Dr. Gary Laughlin did the surgery to repair the aorta and put a band on his pulmonary artery.
Three days after his operation, Wyatt was being cared for Lori Stump, RN. Today, Lori is a nurse at Chippenham’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit after working for nearly 40 years in the profession. But on that day in 1995 Lori knew something was wrong with baby Wyatt. She called a Code Blue, signaling significant respiratory distress, and for 90 minutes she and the team worked to revive Wyatt and place a breathing tube to stabilize him. In the meantime, Jenni waited anxiously to hear an update on her baby’s condition. Lori eventually came to the waiting room, sat in the chair next to her, and said, “We got him back.” Even today, as Lori and Jenni shared their story with me, they get choked up relaying the details. It was as if they have been dear friends for many years. They both shared as a nurse you sometimes don’t realize the impact you have on your patients. This event was a great reminder.
Eventually Wyatt fully recovered and has since led a healthy life. Recently he graduated from high school and is now attending John Tyler Community College with plans to transfer to Virginia Tech and graduate with a degree in nuclear engineering. Jenni always remembered how important Lori was to the care of her son so she orchestrated a surprise reunion where Wyatt dressed up in his cap and gown and showed up at Chippenham Hospital to celebrate his graduation with flowers and gifts. It was a perfect way to acknowledge Lori’s tremendous impact. Lori never forgets her patients like Wyatt. All these years later she recognized him from the infant she cared for in 1995.
Lori has done more than save Wyatt’s life. She inspires others. Jenni is quick to share that Lori is a role model for all nurses. Lori takes the responsibility of role model seriously and commented, “It is who you are, you have to nurture and create these bonds. Not everyone can do that.” In 2014, Lori achieved an elite certification as a RN Clinician 5, the highest achievement in skills at HCA.
Jenni shared her personal journey to becoming a nurse, which wasn’t until her late 30’s. She had dropped out of high school after the 9th grade and has lived on her own since she was 16. Eventually she got her GED. She always loved taking care of people and was managing an automotive shop where she was miserable in her career. She persevered and completed an associates RN program at J. Sargent Reynolds Community College while working full time to support her family. She was quickly promoted to clinical nurse coordinator by her Chief Nurse Officer, Sandy Aderholt, who saw something special during her first two years as an RN. Today, Jenni is actively working towards her Bachelor’s degree and plans to go on to get her Masters. She has her mind set on becoming a Chief Nurse Officer within 10 years.
I asked Jenni what she learned through the early experience with Wyatt’s health crises. She said, “Follow your gut instinct and always be an advocate for your own child.” Lori added, “Parents know best. A great nurse listens to the family. You really need to develop a personal relationship especially in pediatrics. You are taking care of not just the child, but also the mother and father. As a nurse you have to overextend yourself all the time. I will always be a bedside nurse taking care of patients. That is why I was put on this earth.”
It is an awesome responsibility to be a caregiver in an acute hospital setting. The 18 year story between Jenni and Lori is another reminder of the kindness, compassion, and excellence that embodies our nursing team at Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals.