Born To Be a Nurse

March 29, 2020
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Iris Ten is a nurse and home health caregiver of 8-year-old J.G. They met in May 2019, when J.G.’s mom looked for someone to help her take care of her son, who has muscular dystrophy, is non-verbal, and has a tracheostomy. J.G. is homeschooled and his mom stays at home with him all day to care for him. However, since he needs someone to take his vital signs every two hours — as well as regular medications and tube feedings — she reached out to Care Options for Kids for assistance. Iris describes her experiences with J.G.

“He’s a very smart boy,” she starts. “Even though he’s non-verbal, he has an iPad with a lot of educational applications. One of them will show him jumbled words and a picture. He has to match the image with the words that describe it. He always gets it right,” she marvels.

Taking care of J.G. requires around-the-clock monitoring, but it also includes a lot of fun times together. “I arrive at his home in the morning, and his mom has already gotten him up and dressed him. She says he knows when I’m coming, so he waits around and looks for me, which is really cute.” Iris goes on to explain that on a typical shift, she gives him his medications, cleans his stoma, feeds him, provides hydration through a g-tube, and bathes him. They also make time for J.G. to play and watch his favorite movies. “He has a small table where he loves to play with blocks or Legos and to make puzzles with me. He also loves to watch the Toy Story movies — and he always cries during the sad parts! He’s such a sweet boy. I sometimes fast forward the scenes that make him sad, but other times, we watch the whole thing. He also loves Ice Age. He sits on my lap and we’ve watched all those movies so many times, I’ve already memorized a lot of the dialogue and all of the songs!” she laughs.

She’s also always impressed about how — even though he’s non-verbal — he finds ways to let her know exactly what he wants. “The other day, he wanted to go for a walk — he can do so with a walker. So he came up to me in the kitchen and started screaming and motioning for me to follow him. He got to the front door, grabbed my hand, and put it on the knob. I love that. I love that he finds ways to tell us things. He knows so much.”

Iris loves describing the connection she has with J.G. “He’s a very loving boy. He can tell when someone genuinely cares about him. Sometimes, he’ll be sitting on the floor, playing with one of his toys, then he’ll crawl to me, pull himself up by holding on to furniture, and gives me a big bear hug. It really is so nice to be able to give kids the love and attention they deserve.”

When asked about what made her decide on a nursing career, her voice grows somber. “When I was eleven, my grandmother got cancer. I would come home from school, and help take care of her. Later on, as a young adult, my other grandmother got cancer, too. So I took it upon myself to care for her as best as I could. Eventually, I started thinking about going to nursing school so that I could help her better. Unfortunately, she passed away before I graduated. But I always remember both of them — and ever since I started my career, I’ve looked at every single one of my patients like they’re members of my own family. I treat them with love, care, and compassion. I was definitely born to do this.”