When Work Doesn’t Feel Like Work

May 3, 2021
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Fremenia Wachuku always wanted to be a nurse anesthesiologist. However, with her busy life as a wife and mom, she realized being an LPN gave her a career option that fits best with her life. Thirty years later, she’s still working in healthcare, at Care Options for Kids. “I started working here about three years ago,” she explains. “And from the beginning, I’ve been taking care of D.W.”

D.W. is four years old and was born with a chromosomal abnormality that affects his cognitive abilities. Despite his age, he has the development level of a six-month-old baby. He has 24-hour nurse care, and Fremenia takes care of the day shift.

“On a typical day, I arrive at 7:00 AM and talk with the night nurse to get a report on how D.W. is doing — whether he slept through the night, had any breathing issues, fever, or bowel movements. At 8:00 AM, I disconnect him from his ventilator (which he only needs through the night). I change his trach, take care of his g-tube, and feed him breakfast, which is usually baby food. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, he gets a bath. The rest of the days, I give him a sponge bath on his bed.”

D.W.’s mom then comes in to spend some time with her baby before going to work. “Once we’re ready to start the day, I put him in his wheelchair and we go outside to enjoy nature. He loves listening to Michael Jackson, so I  play some music along the way. That makes him really happy.”

After their walk, Fremenia reads him stories, then they watch educational videos together. “He really likes it when I speak in a high-pitched voice or when I do funny dances,” she laughs. “It actually doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like I’m taking care of my own loved one.”

The affection is clear from both sides. “Even though he’s non-verbal, he smiles when he first sees me in the morning. He reaches out his hand and strokes my face. He’ll put his head on my chest for cuddles. He really is such a sweet boy.”

Fremenia is not the only nurse who has grown to love D.W. “His birthday was last week, and all of us nurses who take care of him bought him a lot of Spiderman decorations for his room. I even got him a Spiderman lamp. He was laughing and smiling so much when he saw everything,” she smiles, as she remembers. “But honestly, he has such an innocence to him. For him, every single day is special.”

Working at Care Options for Kids has given Fremenia an opportunity to do something she loves, and to see the progress in patients. “I’ve been taking care of D.W. for three years now, and it’s been so wonderful to see his health conditions improve. Last year, he needed a ventilator 24 hours a day. Now he needs it for 12. He also needed help to change positions in bed. Now he can pull himself up and do it on his own. It really makes me so happy.”

She’s also appreciative of the supportive environment. “Something I really like about working here is that anytime we need any questions answered or additional resources to take care of our patients, Care Options for Kids is always there. Also, all the nurses are well-seasoned and always willing to help each other. It truly feels like a family.”