Afterthoughts - Home Health Nursing

Hosted by Erica Jolene with special guest Abby Tanner | Transcription HERE



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In this week's Afterthoughts episode, my friend and fellow medical mama, Abigail Tanner, has joined me to talk about our personal experiences with home health nursing. There is a lot of laughter and a lot of vulnerability as we both share about the awkwardness and the blessing of having the help of a home health nurse.


Hearing Abby talk about her own experiences provided all the reassurance I did not know I needed. It helped me to feel normal in regards to my initial feelings, my first steps, and my expectations. More than anything, this conversation reminded me of just how lucky we are to have two wonderful nurses in our home.


I can't wait for us all to learn more about Abby, her family, and her tribe; in a future season of her very own!


Abby's son Lincoln's Facebook page, Lincoln's Road, can be found by following this link: https://www.facebook.com/lincolnsroad/


Justin and Abby's business: The Board Collection


Please consider voting to help petition for Disability to be a category of its own. By clicking HERE, you will be helping to support shows like this to be more accessible and reachable to those within the disabled community who are searching them out.


Research conducted in relation to this podcast, "Telling the Atypical Truth: Disability Community-Building Through Podcasting," can be found HERE.



Episode Transcription


Erica

Welcome to Atypical Truth, a podcast community for those impacted by disabilities and complex medical conditions. I am your host, Erica Jolene.


In just about every episode, I have opened with that same line and it dawned on me that someone listening to this show right now might be wondering, "Am I an individual whose life has been impacted by disabilities or complex medical conditions?". So, I thought it would be good to take a quick moment to address that great question. The thing is, most people have been, or will be impacted by disabilities, and/or complex medical conditions at some point in our lives. It may look different and feel different from the stories you hear on this show. It may have been a brief but memorable experience from your childhood when you first saw someone in a wheelchair, or a time in your life when a loved one has to navigate a difficult diagnosis. You may only just now be realizing the prevalence of disabilities and complex medical conditions in our society. And for that, I applaud you for becoming aware and tuning in to learn more about the people who directly identify with this community. I hope that you find comfort in learning that the stigma associated with disabilities is grossly inaccurate and that we're just a bunch of beautiful people living our lives the best way we know how doing what we can with what we have.


One of those beautiful people that I have come to know and love is my fellow medical mama, Abby Tanner. It was through a very random Facebook friend request from her mother-in-law, which led me to Abby and the Facebook page of her son Lincoln; and then into the world of Facebook groups specific to families of children with the same rare form of epilepsy that Margot has - well, technically both of our kids have, but we only had Margot at the time. And I'll never forget this moment, I can remember vividly just how exciting and simultaneously heartbreaking it was to see another family with a child like my own. But this moment changed my life. Before this, I had not even considered looking to Facebook groups for support and navigating this journey and here was one specifically created for us. It was such a relief and just so reassuring during a time when I was really in need of guidance and comfort in gaining some perspective of what to expect and what this life entailed. And here was this group of parents with kids at all different ages and with all differing abilities, each of them posting photos, celebrating with one another, swapping tips and tricks, giving advice and showing each other support. I mean, seriously, this was a game changer. And if you're a parent like myself, and you haven't done it yet, get out there search the keyword of your child's diagnosis. If you're a patient with a new diagnosis do the same. I just can't stress enough what a life changing moment this was, and how important it was to our family in navigating this very challenging time in our lives. But I do plan on taking a deep dive into that in a later episode.


So I've touched on this briefly before, but it bears repeating again and again because it is in fact an occurrence that keeps repeating itself. And that is that one of the most beautiful gifts this journey has given us are the unexpected friendships with people who we would have never met otherwise. The funny thing is a year ago, I would have told you that Abby and I would have walked right past each other without a second thought had we met in the past, during a time before kids were born. I mean, I was just so convinced that our lives were very different. And you know what? I am extremely happy to have learned just how wrong I was.


Abby is this California goddess. She's this amazing singer and an extremely talented cosmetologist so you know, she is always looking perfect. She is a creative business innovator with her husband as well. She's outspoken in just the most captivating and honest way. And she's someone who has long devoted her life to God and her family. And here I was, this quiet prairie girl who hailed from Kansas, I drove stick shifts, I prided myself on changing my own oil, riding motorcycles, and playing the song, like it was the voice I never had, but it always dreamed of. I was managing a business by the time I was 22 and I was far too busy for spirituality or the idea of having a family. So yeah, it's fair to say that I would have expected our paths to not cross. But life has other plans. And it just so happens that our shared desire to learn and discuss with others about our experiences as parents and caregivers to our sweet, complex, kiddos was all it took for the paths to cross and a friendship to emerge.


In the last year, we have this wonderful chance for friendship to blossom, thanks to the Marco Polo app. And this isn't an ad, I just really love that app. So as we got to know one another in these long winded video exchanges, we soon learned just how much we had in common, and how much we enjoyed each other's perspective. Abby has been a constant supporter of this podcast from the early days when it was just this tiny spark of an idea that I was tossing around. And I knew early on that I wanted her to be a part of this project, but I did not expect the enthusiasm she displayed with the idea of joining me for some occasional afterthoughts episodes and then on to even hosting her own season. I mean, most people understandably get nervous about the idea of being interviewed, let alone recorded and put on the air for the world to hear. But as it turns out, when you put a microphone in front of two natural born performers, we will not hesitate to put on a show!


Erica

HI ABBY! ...no, no that was terrible. That's not me at all. (laughter from both)


Abby

(Abby begins singing Lionel Richie) Hello...is it me you're looking for…

(laughter from both) I can see it in your eyes...


Erica

Keep going, keep going. (laughter from both)


Abby

I don't, I don't know the rest of it!


Erica

Now I'm gonna expect you to sing to me like every time!


Abby

You know what I forgot is that I set my voicemail a long time ago to the greatest showmen. But I forget and now every medical professional who leaves a voicemail, it's like...(Abby begins singing the Greatest Showman) "Ohohoooohoh! Ladies and Gents, Abby's not here right now."


Erica

Oh, no, you did not!


Abby

Oh I did! And I keep forgetting until somebody leaves a voicemail and says something.


Erica

Oh, that's awesome.


Abby

I need to change it to something a little more professional.


Erica

I think for the longest time I had the Jungle Book (both begin singing The Bare Necessities) "it's for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessisites..." (laughter from both) It was my ringtone and I swear anytime I would answer the phone, people would just be in the best mood and "Oh, I love that song!" and I had like forgotten that I had done that. Yeah. I don't think they do ringback tones anymore. I kind of wish they would because that put people in a good mood.


Abby

Ooooooh! No, no, no. It can happen!


Erica

Do they? Okay, I will have to do that.


Abby

I do Mariah Carey at Christmas, (Abby begin singing Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas) "All I want for Christmas is yooooou. Doo, Doo Doo..."


Erica

(Erica attempts to chime in) "...ooooh, baby." (laughter from both) I can't sing!


Abby

But you have the moves!


Erica

I can move, but I can't sing. Oooooh. So Abby, tell me about your family. You are the mom of four beautiful babies. Some of them probably are not babies anymore. They'll always be your babies, but they would not appreciate me saying that...I'm pretty sure.


Abby

They probably wouldn't. Yes, so my husband and I live in South Carolina with our four babies, who are not my babies. Wait whoa, wait. (laughter from both)

I STOLE THEM! I picked them up from Target! (laughter from both)

...let's start over!


Erica

....where you buy all the best stuff! (laughter from both)

You went in there. (laughing)

You went in there for flour and you left with four kids! (laughter from both)

"Babe, I was just gonna go get some pillowcases, but..." (laughter from both & breathing hard from laughter)

This is gonna be hard to edit! (laughter from both)


Abby

Oh my gosh, are you gonna have a blooper reel? You need to have a blooper reel and you can just combine it at the end of the season?


Erica

Yes, this. Yes, I plan to but this is, this like deserves a blooper episode of its own! I don't think...that woman who you took the kids from at Target, she left with a wicker laundry basket and she was okay with that!


Abby

She did! She was okay. She was okay. Oh my gosh. Yes, my name is Abby, and I live in South Carolina with my husband of 10 years and we have four children. We have a one-year-old, Lincoln is our four-year-old with complex needs, and then we have a six and eight-year-old. And I'm homeschooling the older two. So...


Erica

And you're one of those lucky families that have an equal disbursement of boys and girls. How cool?


Abby

Oh yes! I had boy, boy, girl, boy, girl. I love it!


Erica

I feel like, in thinking back about it, really so much of it was focusing on us being new to home health, nursing, and like how nervous we were. And I got to thinking about your experience of listening to it because you're coming out from a situation where you don't have home health nursing right now. Tell me what that was like?


Abby

Well, in listening to your experience with Amelia, it took me back to when we were looking for home health in the very beginning. And much of the same nervousness and apprehension and something you said I was like, "I so relate to that!". But almost feeling, I can't remember how you phrased it, but almost feeling like a failure as a mom...


Erica

Um-hum. Yeah.


Abby

...and accepting the help. And I definitely related to that, even in thinking about looking for nursing again, I am seeing those feelings well up of like, I'm not enough. And I'm happy, I should be able to do this on my own. And also not wanting to relinquish the time with Lincoln to someone else. And then you know, the nervousness in having to open your home and trust someone else. So I definitely related to so much of your own experience and your apprehension about it in the beginning and then the blessing that it came to be as well.


Erica

Uh-huh. We're in a really rural area, and it's just really hard to find a nurse period. And I'm sure right now with we're coming out, I say we're coming out of a pandemic, but are we really? I don't know...


Abby

We aren't, everyone else is!


Erica

Exactly. So it's just, you know, further compounded difficulty in finding a quality home health nurse. So I'm curious to know because you guys know you're a little bit rural, you are probably more in the suburbs, so what is it like to find a home health nurse there?I ll and hope that your son is doing better.

Abby

Finding home health nursing in our town is extremely difficult. I don't know if we are as rural as you are, but we are about 50 minutes from the biggest city. Our ittybitty town is next to a bigger one. Anyway, we're about 15 minutes from our local Children's Hospital. So any nurses that we would want to hire are going to have to drive an hour almost to come to us and in your home. And they don't, their benefits aren't enough to make it worthwhile.


Erica

Yeah…


Abby

They're not making nearly as much pay. They don't get any insurance, which is ridiculous. They're like, it doesn't make sense.


Erica

Yeah. Yeah.


Abby

So finding a nurse has been extremely difficult. I mean, I want to say that we've had a file open, Medicaid supposed to be helping find a nurse. Ummmm, I feel I feel like we've had a file open since Lincoln was born. So you know, four years now and we found two. Well, we found three - one long term, one had a short tenure, which was for the best, and the third had a short one as well and we found her and that was just circumstantial. So all on good terms. Anytime we have a hospital stay or I find out someone's a nurse and we have a good exchange. I mean, I sound like door to door salesmen like, "Well, if you want less stress, there's a little boy who would love for you to come on over and we'll feed you and you can be our nurse." And there'll be a lot of flexibility. I mean, I sell our family all the time to be nurses, hoping that one day somebody will be like, "You know what, I'd rather be with Lincoln than the stress of the hospital." It hasn't worked yet. But...


Erica

I'm just curious the ones that you've hired, are those the only ones that you have met? Or do you have, like, meet and greets with other ones that you haven't liked?


Abby

We had one meet and greet. That was terrible. Oh, my gosh, it was so it was so terrible. It was so terrible. Okay, this lady walked in. She didn't say very much. She was very quiet. And like the supervisor came with her. That's how we did interviews, the supervisor, and then the nurse. And she came in, and she didn't wash your hands, and then wanted to move Lincoln or asked if she wanted to hold Lincoln...I can't remember. So she's holding Lincoln, a little awkwardly and finally, there was this awkward pause. You know, we've asked all the questions, there's awkward pause, and she tells us a story about one of her children, her older children, who had some terrible rash that wouldn't go away for weeks and weeks. And I'm like, you are holding my child! You did not wash your hands! And this is what you want to tell us! We're like, "NOPE!". We thought that looking for a nurse was this list of questions and we learned after that, it's like, that experience, the first impression you know, instincts, like are you going to sanitizer or wash?


Erica

Yes.


Abby

That's just a basic thing. Basic.


Erica

Yes.


Abby

But it's super important for our kids, you know?


Erica

Oh, yeah!


Abby

Their health is literally on your hands.


Erica

Well, it also tells you what their natural tendencies and habits are, right? Like, if she didn't walk in and immediately wash her hands, you can expect that every day, which means everywhere she's going, she's not doing that, which is concerning. We have had several people that we've done that initial meet and greet with, that we didn't end up hiring. And it's been actually for such opposite reasons. It's not always the same. The first nurse that we met, I liked her but she had just lost a patient who she had been with for 16 years.


Abby

Awwwwww....


Erica

Their families went to church together. And like it had just been a month and I could tell that she was so attached to this family. And I remember telling Randy like, "I don't think, I don't think we can hire her because I am so afraid that she's going to have that expectation of that relationship. And what if we can't live up to that kind of closeness?" It broke my heart. And then we found Amelia. And then we've had others who were like, one nurse was like, "I love to be busy. I love to be moving." And this was back when I was like not letting them do anything. And I'm like, well, that's not gonna work. That's not our house...


Abby

Oh, my gosh, can you bring her back now?


Erica

She was so cool and upfront, she's like, "you know, I'm the type of nurse that goes into homes where kids don't have parents like you. There's either a lot of siblings that the parents really need to focus on. Or maybe they don't have the capacity or the competence to do this. That's the kind of family I need to be with." So it was a very respectful, “this won't work” situation. So when we talk about the experiences as a whole, I don't know about you, but I took so long for me that first initial list of questions, and it has drastically changed from my first draft.


Abby

Oh, absolutely. I don't feel like you can be too picky.


Erica

Right?


Abby

I mean, if we're looking at your lobe sizes, then that's probably a problem. (laughter from both) But goodness, no, and, and you know, not, I mean, you and Randy are at home, my husband and I are at home, my husband worked from home. Obviously, I'm raising and homeschooling the other kids too. But especially for those that aren't at home, and they don't have to assess and see what's going on with the nurse and their child and how they're engaging with one another. I mean, you'd want to be even pickier and have cameras up everywhere.


Erica

Oh, absolutely. There is an added layer of suspicion, just fear in general, which can cast of course, all those other feelings, because yeah, you're away from your sick child, hoping that someone is going to watch them as good as you...I see as good as me and I can't tell you how many times we get busy and Margot's head has fallen forward and I'm like, "Ope, I wonder how long that's been fall forward!"


Abby

Yeah!


Erica

but I'm like, if a nurse did that…


Abby

Yup! Oh my gosh, that just happened to me with Lincoln. That same thing just happened like a week ago and I panicked. I was in the same room and I looked over and he was, he had stretched too far! Oh my gosh, that feeling. But yeah, if it were a nurse, you'd be like, "Where were you? It doesn't matter that you were right there. Where were you? Why did that even happen?"


Erica

We're opening up to the idea of adding more nurses currently. And the thing about that is, not only do you have the added layer of them being in your home, but now you have the added pressure of making sure they get along with your other nurses.


Abby

Yeah, I wanted to know how that works. So they both come at the same time. So you have one for each kid, same shift.


Erica

Uh-huh. And that can get a little sticky, right?


Abby

That can be tricky. Well, and, they probably have their own ways of doing things.


Erica

Yes!


Abby

Yeah.


Erica

And they both care about the kids on the same level, like deeply. It's just an added challenge, the dynamic, still something I'm hugely grateful for, you know, so...


Abby