In recognition of Nurses Week and Mother’s Day next week, we’d like to share the compelling story of one of our dedicated nurses, Rebecca Pak, an RN in the Endocrinology Clinic at CHOC Children’s , and how her daughter’s rare condition gave her a new perspective as a nurse, and as a mommy.
The day is crystal clear in my mind. I met my baby girl, who came to me from South Korea, and knew my life was going to be full of joy and happiness. I also knew that there would be many unknowns and many challenges with an adopted child. What I didn’t know was that this precious baby would change my career and perspective on nursing forever.
She arrived to me as a healthy 8-month-old baby. She was happy and immediately bonded to our entire family. When she reached her first birthday, I began to notice subtle things in her physical development. After working a long night shift, in May of 2010, I came home and began to get my baby changed and ready for the day. When I was getting her dressed, I noticed her breasts looked bigger than normal. I told myself “it is probably just baby fat.” My 11 years of neonatal intensive care nursing didn’t prepare me for what was about to come.
In June 2010, I noticed my daughter’s left breast increasing in size, as well as other abnormal changes for her age. Immediately I took her to the pediatrician. She ordered labs, an X-ray of her hand to determine her bone age, and referred us to pediatric endocrinology. Her lab results were normal but her bone age was advanced, and I felt like I couldn’t see the endocrinologist quickly enough. I was filled with fear and anxiety. My entire nursing career had been focused on neonatal intensive care. You could ask me anything related to prematurity, sepsis in the newborn and high risk deliveries and I could respond…yet I knew nothing about endocrinology.
She finally had her first appointment with endocrinology, and a Leuprolide stimulation test pointed to a diagnosis of Central Precocious Puberty, a condition where the puberty process starts way too soon. Again the feelings of anxiety, sadness, and fear for the unknown crept into my mind. Why and how could this be happening to her?
We started Lupron injections every 28 days to suppress her puberty. It was hard to see my daughter go through the pain of injections and endure the negative side effects, which eventually lead to the decision to place a Supprelin implant. As I began to educate myself on this condition, I became fascinated with pediatric endocrinology. Suddenly, I had the aspiration to one day perform stimulation testing and provide treatment for endocrine conditions. I wanted to help the families and children who were going through what my daughter was going through.
Serendipitously at one her appointments, I learned my daughter’s endocrinology nurse was retiring. Without delay, I applied for the position. I knew I had a lot to learn and was hoping I would be given an opportunity to use my empathy as a mom and my skills to manage very detailed needs in order to provide the most outstanding endocrine care to patients.
Almost two years later, I now work full time as an endocrinology nurse at CHOC where my daughter is treated. I have compassion for every family that walks into our clinic. I love performing the Leuprolide stimulation tests most of all, because I get to share my daughter’s story. Immediately the parents are at ease knowing I went through this same thing when my daughter was only 18 months old.
And, I continue to strive to further my knowledge within endocrinology; after all this has become my life. I have come to realize that actually living the experience has created an empathy unsurpassed; this is what has molded me to become the endocrinology nurse that I am today. I treat every patient who walks into the Endocrinology Clinic at CHOC as if he or she were my own child. I provide a personable experience that all families will never forget…..after all, I am one of those families.