A Story with Heart

The following is Susan’s story contained in “A Celebration of Personal Heroes” E-book.  It is reprinted here with the permission of Kozik Rocha Inc.  Susan Brownell retains all rights to this story.   If you wish to use this story, you must obtain permission from Susan Brownell at info@susanbrownell.com before using it.

The CNA–Certified Nursing Angel

You don’t have to wear a Super-Hero Costume to be a hero.  You can be a hero by following your life’s calling, whatever that may be.  Heroes aren’t in it for the glory.  Heroes care.  They follow their heart.  And so it is with Karen Brownell.  Karen is a CNA.  My definition for CNA is Certified Nursing Angel.  Karen loved her job and it showed.  She was named Employee of the Year in 1991 and also won the top CNA award from the State that year.

Karen was on the job at the Morrow Memorial Nursing Home in November 1997.  She told a co-worker that she felt like she was going to faint.  Karen immediately collapsed.  She had a full Cardiac Arrest.  She died while caring for others.  Fortunately, the ambulance arrived quickly and they saved her life.  That was just the beginning.

The ambulance took her to the local hospital.  She died again there, and once again was revived.  She was transferred to the regional hospital with the best heart care.  She lost her life and was revived five more times there.   She was in a coma for two weeks.  Karen’s heart was not able to function on its own.  She had to get a Pacemaker/Defibrillator.  Although they are supposed to last about seven years, she is already on her sixth Pacemaker/Defibrillator in 14 years.  She is on a Heart Transplant List.

It has been a long road to recovery.  She continued to work her way back and eventually she returned to her job as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at the same nursing home, even though it was quite strenuous for her.  I always loved to hear her stories of the latest ventures of some of her patients.  She used humor and compassion to get her through the challenging parts of being a CNA.

She was tired all the time and had little time and energy for other things, but she still managed to work.  She babysat her Grandchildren regularly while her Daughter-in-Law attended NursingSchool.  The Doctor’s pleaded with her to give up this kind of work, as it takes a toll on her.  The wires attaching her Pacemaker/Defibrillator to the heart sometimes came loose from all the heavy lifting she did on the job.  Just the same, she could not be dissuaded from her work.  She cringed at the thought of an office job, which would have put less stress on her heart.  She reached the point where the Doctors told her she was 100 % dependant on the Pacemaker/Defibrillator.  All this while, Karen continued to spread love and cheer to the aging residents on her wing of the nursing home.  She gave, and continues to give, material things to them, as well as her time and attention.  Most of all, she gives them her heart–the well-worn heart of an angel–with no strings attached, just a few wires and a small box with a battery.