May 5th, 2012
By Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN
A short while back I discovered Nurses House, a fabulous organization with a long history of helping nurses in need. Their mission is providing short-term financial assistance to nurses who require some financial aid as a result of illness, injury, or disability.
After talking with Nurses’ House representative Stephanie Dague I knew I needed to tell every nurse I could reach about the great work they are doing and encourage all of us who hold that special RN certification to reach out to Nurses House and help them continue their work.
Now, I want to introduce you all to a recipient of Nurses’ House generosity, Karynn Gerow, RN. If you search for Gerow’s name on the internet you get an interesting mix of research credits on the subject of diabetes and news reports of the 2004 tragedy that changed her life.
What ultimately led to your relationship with Nurses House?
"I was in a car accident. A friend was driving my car. We were on our way to the Cape (Cape Cod, MA) to see a house for my other business (besides being a nurse Gerow owned an retail store). The owners wanted me to handle the sale of their things. Anyway, I heard her say something; I looked up and saw the abutment then we rolled, like eight times. I was such a typical nurse. Once it all stopped I was in shock but I started assessing myself, my injuries. I thought I might lose my legs. I knew it was bad but I was already thinking well, I will get a prosthetic; I will go on with my life.
“I was taken by helicopter to a Boston trauma hospital. I died several times and they resuscitated me. Among a lot of injuries I had a torn heart valve; that can happen when the heart takes a good “whop.” I was in the passenger seat but I ended up all the way out the back of the Trailblazer with my seatbelt still on. “
Gerow did end up losing one leg but after several months she was released from the hospital to a rehab center and eventually she was released to live on her own. Friends and colleagues helped her out, with one in particular eventually staying on with her to act as her nurse’s aid.
So, how did you hear about Nurses House?
”There were a lot of medical bills. Insurance didn’t cover $5, 000. I didn’t know what I was going to do then somebody told me about Nurses House. I had never heard of them but I did some research; made some calls.“
When was this?
”I think it was about 2006 when I called them the first time. The people were so pleasant, so helpful, and so wonderful. I filled out their application (it was really easy) and they sent me some money and it really helped. Awesome is putting it mildly.”
”I can’t thank Nurses House enough for helping me. I benefitted two times from them.”
It has been a long road of recovery that Gerow is still on. She did indeed get her prosthetic leg, but the results of an ongoing MRSA infection ended up with her not being able to use it any longer. Ironically, she has developed diabetes, the very disease she studied and helped research in her years as a nurse.
”I miss every minute of my 38 years of nursing. I just loved my patients,” Gerow told me over the phone as she related her long and varied career as a registered nurse.
”I started nursing school in 1970 when they were starting to talk about it being important to get your BSN. I went into a Diploma program in New London, Connecticut that ran in conjunction with a two-year community college. I earned my diploma and earned my board certification in Med/Surg nursing.
”I started off in OB/GYN right out of school, then off to a general surgery floor. That floor changed specialties every year, ophthalmology, plastics, I learned to care for all kinds of patients. Over the years I worked in dialysis, diabetic education, even as a weekend Head Nurse. The whole time I lived right here in Connecticut. I worked at Yale in 1989 as a clinical researcher in diabetes research. I even worked as visiting nurse for a long time.”
Did you ever get that BSN?
It took me 17 years to get my ADN. I was working as a nurse all the time. Plus, I had my own business selling furniture and other things.”
If you could tell nurses across the country about why they should support Nurses House, what would you say?
”Nurse’s House has been really wonderful and they reached out to me again when I ran into trouble paying for some medications. They sent some money and it really helped. Their donations helped cover two months of really expensive medications. Plus, they always ask how am I doing, how’s your health? They always say, “Keep us posted.”
”We (nurses) put our hearts and souls into our profession. Nurse’s House is the only organization that supports disabled nurses; the only one that is specifically for helping RNs. There just isn’t anywhere like it. They are so kind and considerate.”
”After we have helped others for many years we should try to help ourselves. That’s what Nurse’s House does. You know, they are all nurses, the people who make the decision to help the nurses who apply. There just isn’t anyone like the people of Nurse’s House. I cannot say enough nice things about them.”
As we head into a week of celebrating who we are and what we do as nurses lets keep in mind people like Karynn Gerow, RN. Tragedy can strike out of nowhere, none of us is immune. A simple one-time donation or a regular monthly gift can be of more help than you may ever imagine. Nursing is all about taking care—let’s help an organization who is taking care of us.