Let the journey begin…

Born and raised in the “Heart of the Valley” of Wisconsin was a blessing.  Raising children truly requires a team approach wherever you live. Finding and engaging a team for the game in our families circumstances certainly not a problem.  Our community was rich in number and subsequently raised among a large and wonderful network of supportive family in close proximity including:  great grandparents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, and supportive community.  My father was one of seven and mother one of twelve children.  Abundance of support did not stop in the family and spilled over to the local community on a regular basis allowing all families to grow and blossom.  Regardless of where my home is today, I am grounded with roots firmly planted in Kaukauna, WI-the home of the “Galloping Ghosts” mascot and maker of the famous Kaukauna cheese https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIXid4lt4oA&feature=youtu.be.

My parents were blessed with 4 children, myself including.  I was sandwiched in the middle of two older brothers and one younger.  We had our typical normal challenges throughout life as any family does, but in addition, my older brother closest in age to me by 25 months was born as a “blue baby” with complex univentricular congenital heart disease and not expected to live beyond the age of 1-2 years of age.  He required numerous encounters with the health care community through the years (shunted in early youth and Fontan in his teens) and is currently battling for a chance to live a quality of life outside the walls of a hospital waiting for cardiac transplant.

This memoir will highlight one family’s positive spirit, resiliency, and journey from a younger sibling’s perspective (now 44 years old), who incidentally happens to have chosen a career specialty in pediatric nursing with experience as a bedside nurse in the ICU and pediatric nurse practitioner in cardiology and cardiovascular surgery.



Family of hearts


Expressing a strong feeling and desire for something that is not easily attainable

Step into my shoes

Grounded by the powerful healing energy and potential for growth around me


1.  Let the journey begin…

This blog highlights the logistics of why this story is pertinent to pursue.  CHD is the number one birth defect.  Our family was one of the many family impacted and intend to share my story about challenges, strengths, and resiliency given the resources at the table through the years.  The inspirational journey is not always positive but hope was and is an ever present theme to this day.

2.  Future Nurse:  Caring starts at a young age

This section identifies how the nursing profession and caring was introduced to me through play, health care experiences, and normal family life transitions.  With time, thoughtful engagement, encouragement, and modeling, this profession became a top career path on my journey.

3.  My transition through adulthood

Certainly where most of the “meat~if you will” of the journey is present by shear nature of years and typical developmental milestones and traditions.  In a not always sequential fashion, you will travel through the years with significant milestones and reflections of the journey (past and present).  Focus on incorporating normal growth and developmental infant, toddler, school-age, teen years, young adult, college, and early family and nursing career with be discussed.

4.  My transition in nursing from novice to expert

This blog series will highlight the journey from nursing assistant, student nurse, graduate nurse, registered nurse and pediatric nurse practitioner (AC/PC).  Many role changes, challenges, and insightful paths will be highlighted along the way.

5.  Caregiver fatigue

Caring for yourself on the journey of life is not a novelty;  however, this is certainly a pertinent data point that is essential in the profession of nursing, lives of families, and quite often ignored by women.  You will hear about my experience identifying it and healing the mind, body, and soul.

6.  Celebrating life’s triumphs and challenges

The specialty field of pediatric cardiology and cardiovascular surgery have grown astronomically through the years.  Hospital guidelines for sibling and family visits have gone full circle since I was a child navigating the system with my parents.  Today, extensive education for the child, parent, and even involving the healthy siblings are included in the process much earlier in time.  As a result, families are arriving to the table prenatally and beyond with a much stronger knowledge base at the beginning of the journey.

As with many health diseases, CHD presented struggles and issues certainly presented to the table, needed to be addressed in order to cope with in our family.  The intent at conclusion of this blog will stem from recognizing that we have a choice to think positively, thoughtfully, and move forward utilizing these strengths no matter what the variables surface.  Moving forward for the betterment of health in all children and families, openness of the mind, willingness to believe, and willingness to share thoughtful and transferrable resolutions among centers and strong families are essential to continue to foster conversations positive throughout the journey.

8 thoughts on “Let the journey begin…

    • Innovations have improved so much in 46 years in congenital heart disease (CHD). The bar is now lifted to move beyond saving lives, treating disease, and to truly curing disease states and improving quality of life. The field of pediatrics as a whole does a great job focusing on the entire family. Unfortunately, given the complexity of the disease and systems, those caregivers and close family members stories are often left untold which can leave many folks at risk for further cascading disease processes as families cope with issues over time.

      My goal is to share a unique story with hopes to benefit families of the future and those who may not have been fortunate to have as many resources to navigate the complex health care system.


      • The Thanksgiving holiday in the USA emphasizes and embraces the kindness of the heart, the human spirit, and sharing the resources you have at the table within your community.

        No one knows how my story or any others will play out in real life. I am grateful for all the “Strong Hearts,” like my brother’s and his team of experts, throughout this very challenging journey.

        Happy Thanksgiving to all those families in America celebrating this holiday and to those outside of the USA, please give thanks at your family’s dinner table for all your gifts shared this day.


  1. This is wonderful Michelle! I haven’t been able to finish reading all of it yet but I look forward to doing so. You are a very insightful person and truley understand the benefits (both physical and mental) of positive thinking every day. Thanks for sharing your life experiences as learning tools for others who follow this.

    “Life’s blows cannot break a person whose spirit is warmed at the fire of enthusiasm”
    Norman Vincent Peale

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Barb for your comments and sharing a wonderful quote! I have not seen this one before, but will surely be a staple on my list.

      It is so fascinating to look back at where we have been, what was really written or spoken about the entire family and the experiences around CHD. Interestingly, I found an article entitled Impact of Congenital Heart Disease on the Family: Preliminary Report, from the British Medical Journal in 1967 which identified CHD diagnosis in a child produces “harmful impact, material and emotional, on the family” and certain families are “at risk”. I don’t disagree with this but also find the progress over the years to be so incredible. Interestingly, they also comment about the influences surrounding severity of CHD, quality of medical management, and communication. These themes resonate in CHD today and in my humble perspective resonate with any health diagnosis identified. With the incredible progress through the years, it is our job as team members to remain steadfast to continue to focus streamlining practical care and keeping these values in the forefront of care and management.


      • Michelle, this is amazing!
        So important to have a personal as well as professional perspective so that patients and families can relate! This will be so beneficial!! Never stop writing!! You are very talented!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s