For nurses (or those training to become a nurse), most of your skills are focused on helping your patients… and rightfully so. But there’s another significant advantage to the training… the many ways in which you can help yourself.
Understanding healthcare, the importance of healthy habits, and the need for regular “healthy you” checkups are just a few of the benefits your nurse’s training includes, all of which are very important in maintaining your health. But an additional benefit of your training is knowing the red flags that could signal a life-or-death health situation.
Such was the case for 25-year-old Katie Barber, a nurse from Long Island, New York, whose ability to recognize warning signs in her own body wound up saving her life.
It all began when an old hip injury from her teens began flaring up again, making it difficult to do her rounds. Wisely, she decided to have the problem checked out.
“About a year ago, I noticed I was having severe hip pain, and a CT scan revealed I had a torn labrum in my right hip,” she said. “My orthopedic surgeon felt that, over time, bone degeneration led to wear and tear injury of my right labrum.”
A surgery was scheduled, followed by bed rest for two weeks. But it was when she started experiencing shortness of breath during physical therapy that she began suspecting something might not be right.
“Being a nurse, I started to wonder if this could be deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE),” she recalls. “I never thought something like this would happen to me, but I went to the hospital just to be safe. Well, I’m glad I went because it turns out I had a right leg DVT with bilateral PEs.”
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is caused by a blood clot in one of the body’s deep veins, and according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, DVT can often follow surgeries in the hip region, such as Katie’s. The condition can easily become fatal if the clot travels or can cause permanent vein damage if the clot remains.
Fortunately, Katie’s training and experience as a nurse had prepared her—not only to spot the warning signs prior to diagnosis, but what to expect next during the treatment. Follow up tests revealed that she had a clotting disorder, but the problem didn’t stop there. She began to notice dizzy spells throughout the day, sometimes so severe she had trouble getting out of bed. This, she knew, was another red flag, and one that needed to be addressed immediately.
“I was weak and couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time. In September 2018, I went to the hospital and was found to have an abnormal heart rate, later diagnosed as a junctional rhythm. I was kept in the hospital for eight days receiving IVs due to low blood pressure. The next day, I developed chest pain and difficulty breathing. A chest X-ray revealed fluid in my lungs, requiring oxygen for a few days.”
The issue was a heart condition known as junctional rhythm, and the solution—a pacemaker. For most 25-year-olds, the idea of a pacemaker can easily be terrifying. The device is typically associated with senior citizens. But as a nurse who works a cardiac unit, Katie not only understood that many younger patients are given pacemakers, but that receiving one was vital to keeping her alive.
“As a cardiac ICU nurse, I’m accustomed to seeing patients with pacemakers,” she said. “Most are much older, but there are a fair share of younger patients also needing these devices. It seems that more people without formal training don’t understand the purpose of pacemakers, and more importantly, the normal lifestyle that one can give.”
And good news—after receiving the pacemaker, Katie reports that she’s already noticed more energy and the dizzy spells have disappeared. What could have been a medical tragedy ended positively, with Katie back in scrubs and treating her patients—all thanks to her nurse’s training and her wise decision not to ignore warning signs.
If you’re interested in starting a career as a nurse or medical assistant, contact Unitek College today to find out the next steps you should take.