Just one week before Rachael Tarka’s 12th birthday, she was admitted to Baystate Children’s Hospital with serious abdominal pains.
After close examination, doctors determined that Rachael was suffering from gallstones. She needed a laparoscopic cholecystectomy surgery, a procedure that removes the gallbladder through minimally invasive techniques.
It’s not the procedure that Rachael vividly remembers all these years later, though. It’s her nurse that cared for her that long day, Debbie Timberlake.
“Debbie was my nurse while I was there, the first one assigned to me once I got up to the unit, I believe. Her composure and grace calmed me in an unfamiliar setting. She helped me to feel better, just doing her job, but it meant so much more to me,” Rachael said.
Inspiring the next generation
Over the last 11 years, Rachael has regained her health and just graduated from the University of Saint Joseph with a nursing degree, something she says Debbie inspired her to do.
“I have a vivid memory of Debbie having just started my IV and leaving the room, and I turned to my mom and told her, ‘When I grow up, I'm going to be a nurse, just like Debbie.’”
Debbie is still a nurse at Baystate Children’s Hospital, and was shocked when Rachael recently reached out to share how profoundly impacted she was by her Baystate experience over a decade ago.
“I've taken care of many patients over the past 11 years,” Debbie said. “I was amazed when I heard Rachael's story. I’m grateful that she took the time and effort to try to track me down. I love being a nurse.
Rachael says when she began applying to the nursing program at University of Saint Joseph, one of the main questions asked why the applicant wanted to become a nurse.
“I wrote my story about how Debbie impacted and influenced my life in such an inspiring, positive manner and how I can only hope to one day be able to help people the way she helped me. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. You have to be called to the profession of nursing, and I am blessed to have had someone like Debbie help me figure out my passion, even if she was only doing her job.
“Hearing that you've helped, that something you've done has made a difference, is a wonderful thing. An email like Rachael's is a treasure, something that I truly appreciate,” Debbie said.
Rachael has accepted a full time, night shift position in the New Graduate program at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT, after she passes her NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination)!