Crozer Patient Inspired to Become Nurse
Through the haze of head trauma and pain medication, Christina Reinhardt, RN, BSN, was only aware of faces and small acts of kindness. The faces were those of the nurses who cared for her on Crozer-Chester Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Unit, Step Down Unit and 1 West after an auto accident nine years ago that nearly took her life. The care and compassion shown by these nurses inspired Reinhardt to become a critical care nurse. Here is her story.
I was 21 years old and had just graduated from West Chester University with a bachelor’s degree in communications. I was planning a career in public relations and had several promising job interviews lined up. That’s the last clear thing I remember before the accident. Two weeks after graduation, on June 1, 2001, I fell asleep at the wheel of a car and crashed into the back of a tractor trailer. My face smashed into the dashboard and my chest slammed against the steering wheel. All my ribs were fractured. My seatbelt broke my left clavicle which punctured my lung. I had bilateral pneumothorax and was intubated on the scene. My face was unrecognizable. My nose was actually gone. My eye walls and sockets were shattered on both sides. I broke my jaw and some teeth and cracked the frontal bone of my skull. The police officers who went to my house to get my mom and take her to the hospital didn’t think I was going to survive until they got there.
My father was on a business trip at the time and my mom remembers being alone in the waiting room, very upset and crying while the medical staff was working on me. She recalls one nurse in particular who hugged her and let her cry and assured her that things were going to be okay. “She’s a strong girl and she’s a fighter,” the nurse told her. Her compassion meant so much to my mom and, later, to me.
I remember very little about my hospital stay, which lasted two and a half weeks. I only remember little glimpses, mostly of nurses’ faces. I remember being in pain and a kind face would appear to give me medicine. I remember that my family cried and another kind face was there to take care of them. My family told me how wonderful the nurses were to them and to me. They were vigilant about managing my pain and keeping me as comfortable as possible. They were always so attentive to our every need. No one ever made us feel like we were a burden to them or that they were too busy to do something for us. I found that the littlest things made the biggest difference. Someone getting you a cup of coffee or a glass of water or just asking if you needed anything else makes you feel truly cared for.
Through my experience, I saw how much a nurse affects the life of a patient, especially in critical care. Even though the doctors and the hospital may be the best in the world, the nurse is the one taking care of you every day. I saw how much it means when a nurse not only provides good care, but shows you the compassion that you need and performs little acts of kindness. The littlest things are the biggest things . . . they are the ones that people remember.
My nurses in the Shock Trauma Unit, Step Down Unit and 1 West inspired me to become a nurse. They are the reason that I work in critical care. I wanted to be able to give back the care and compassion that was given to me and my family. So as soon as I was able, I went back to school and earned my BSN from Immaculata University in 2007.
Now that I’m shift manager for the MICU/CVU/Telemetry Units at Crozer, I’ve had the chance to work with some of the nurses who took care of me nine years ago. It’s a pretty surreal feeling to know that I was their patient during the worst time in my life, and now I am working alongside them!
I thank God every day for nurses who put their heart and soul into their work . . . for the ones who helped to save my life and for all those who continue to save lives every day. Not long ago, we sent a young patient home that nobody thought was going to survive . . . nobody. And now he’s home and doing well. It’s absolutely incredible. We save a lot of people, even some who aren’t expected to live . . . like me.
When I had my accident, I was just a 21-year-old who had just finished college, and my mom was just a regular mom hoping that her daughter was going to live. For the nurses on duty, that might have been just another day at work, but they didn’t treat it that way. They knew that for my family and me, it was the biggest thing in our lives, and they showed us the greatest kindness and respect as well as providing great care. It’s a lesson I think about daily.
Recently, I had a young patient who was very sick. The situation felt very similar to my own. I sat with his mom while she cried and hugged me and shared her feelings. It’s very rewarding to be able to help someone that way. Each day when I leave here, I hope that I’ve made a difference for some family the way my nurses did for mine.