She brought me in as a "Candy Striper" with the red and white striped pinafore and the write blouse underneath. I even worn white shoes, that almost looked like nurses shoes back then. I got to do so many things that most other girls that came in to be one of these volunteers probably may not have gotten to do. She took me under her wing, taught me how to sterilize and "autoclave" instruments back then. They did not have many instruments that were "thrown away". Most were stainless steel, and they were sterilized, put in certain packs for certain surgeries, then put in an "autoclave" that really sterilized them from all germs, bacteria and so on.
She let me take care of the newborns, I took them out to their Mom's, and we even made "Christmas stockings" for the ones born at Christmas to send them home in. In fact, one Christmas I was in the local paper with a new Mom and Dad, and their baby going home in one of the stockings we made.
There are so many things Dean influenced me on, and being a nurse was something I wanted to do for the most of my younger years. But, she also taught me much more than just about nursing. She was like a "2nd Mom" to me. She showed me how to crochet, how to do counted cross stitching, and embroidery. She took me to Dallas shopping with her quite a bit. She taught me to sew.
When I was abut 14 years old, I had an extremely bad circumstance that happened to me, and she was the only person I felt I could go to about it. Even though eventually I had to tell my Mom of course, she was always the first person I went to no matter what the problem was. Of course now, the years have taken much of our communication away. We see one another every now and then, but she is about 90 years old plus, and has her own set of health issues, and her own kids, grand kids and great grand kids that help her, and she helps them.
Yet, time has never taken away all that I learned from her. The memories, and many of the things she taught me continue to have an influence on my life today.
I am so grateful for those young years with her, and how some of what I learned back then from her, continues to help me through life. Plus many of the things she taught me, had shaped my advocacy, activism, and volunteer work through out these past 7 to 10 years also.
There is another young woman that stepped into my life a bit over a year ago. She is one of the most compassionate people I know. Her ability to make you feel "useful" and "needed" is just something I don't see much in others. For the most part life keeps us so wrapped up in our own daily "grind" so jobs, family, friends, and so forth at times also effect how we treat others. Laura is so patient. No matter how busy she is, there is always time that she takes to answer a question, or send a quick email back. I've learned so much about advocacy over the past year with her help, plus I've also learned a great deal about myself, and just how strong I am and often don't realize it. I have also been taught so much about how "one email", one voice, one post, or even a phone call or letter can make a huge difference.
I used to think like many others, "How can I, just one person, ever make a difference in how the government, or some other place think on a certain illness, disease, treatment and so forth"? Yet, through the teachings of her, and her way of showing me just how much of a difference my voice does make; taught me to help others, and encourage others to do the same. I now try and persuade those that think as I did, gosh there is no way a call to my local, state, or federal Congress Member will ever make any change. Yet, our voices do make change! Our efforts, whether an email, voice mail, Twitter post, or any other Social Media post, can be the turning point in changing how research, funding, from the medical profession to our own government entities "see" these chronic illnesses, syndromes, and such. It can mean the difference between funding getting out there for a new medication, or a study that could mean the end to some of these illnesses. But, if "I" don't make a step forward, then I am not teaching others to do the same.
Thus, through this bright, intelligent, vibrant, patient, and very benevolent woman, I have learned just how important it is for me to speak up, speak out, and tell my own story. If I tell my own, then I am giving others the courage to also step forward and tell their stories.
I've had a couple more people that truly are my "hero's". My Dad, my Mom, and several others along my winding rivers path of life. But, the two I've really mentioned are those that helped to shape my life, my goals, aspirations, and ability to keep on "fighting the good fight" against chronic illnesses and chronic pain.