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My Journey from PICU Patient to PICU Nurse

By Jeni Arganbright, registered nurse in the CHOC Children’s pediatric intensive care unit

As a premature baby I experienced a severe lung complication that would go on to affect my early years of childhood. When I was 9 years old, I acquired eosinophilic pneumonia, a disease where a type of white blood cell accumulates in your lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. This led to some serious respiratory problems for me. My parents brought me to the hospital, where I was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). I had to be intubated, which means that my doctors inserted a tube through my mouth and into my airway to help me breathe. I stayed in the PICU for a month before my breathing was stabilized and I was fully recovered from the pneumonia. I later had another serious bout of this same health complication with similar results.

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As a child, Jeni was a patient in a pediatric intensive care unit. That experience inspired her to pursue a career as a PICU nurse.

Since that time, I have been fine and never acquired such serious respiratory health issues. During my two stays in the hospital as a young child I was left with a tremendous amount of appreciation for the nurses that cared for me. What impressed me the most was the sincerity in which they offered their medical care for me, on both a personal and professional level. I was not just another patient for them to care for, but someone they had a deep concern for, and someone for whom they lovingly offered support. I remember the nurses worrying with my parents about my health, as well as celebrating my good days and eventual release from the hospital. I later thought what a wonderful opportunity to be in a profession where someone could come to work every day and offer sincere and caring support for both a small child as well as their family members. I wish all parents knew how much we care and also share in their emotional worries about their child.

My advice to new nurses is to do your job with the highest level of professionalism combined with openly expressing your sincere care and concern for the child and his/her parents.

Learn more about the pediatric intensive care unit at CHOC

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2 thoughts on “My Journey from PICU Patient to PICU Nurse”

  1. Wow! An amazing story! You are an inspiration to many to go through with what you have been through as a child and then to grow as not only to be a caring professional but caring deep within your heart to be their for your patients and their families on a personal level. You are an amazin gbc person.

  2. I too have an amazing amount of respect for picu nurses (and all nurses). I’ve had 59 (waiting for the next few) brain and spinal cord surgeries (I had a brain bleed at birth due to being premature which damanged the arachnoid villi, later causing intracranial hypertension which is similar to hydrocephalus).

    I’ve had many stays in the picu most lasting a few months and out of state. There was one stay in preticular when a nurse went above and beyond her duties. I was there for my 17th birthday (I’m 24 now) and my moms birthday is 5 days after mine. One of my favorite nurses made me a birthday card. She cut different colored pieces of construction paper and glued them to make a birthday cake. I still have it on my shelf.

    I ended up having to have an emergency surgery on my moms birthday and while one of my favorite nurses, my neurosurgeon (yeah, he brought me down himself because he said there was no time for transport to come) and a resident were pushing my bed to the operating room, I said to my mom “I’m sorry I ruined your birthday.” And my nurse said “I got you a cake.” That meant so much to me and is something I will never forget. Thank you for everything you do. I imagine it’s a difficult job but also a rewarding one. My dream was to become a picu nurse so I can help others like those that helped me but I’m not well enough right now.

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