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Nurse Jackie serves as a reminder of blessings in trauma

Katie Pinke and her family recently reconnected with a nurse who cared for her son after a spinal cord injury.

Hunter Pinke in his wheelchair hugs a nurse who cared for him following his spinal cord injury in December 2019. They met up on July 1, 2022, in rural Minnesota.
Hunter Pinke on July 1, 2022, near Dent, Minnesota, met up with a nurse, Jackie, who cared for him in late December 2019 following his spinal cord injury in Colorado.
Katie Pinke / Agweek
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Before I donated a backpack I once used for work to the church rummage sale, I reached inside a zipper pocket to make sure it was empty. Inside, I found a folded yellow Post-It note. I immediately knew what was written on the note and then proceeded to unfold it. Thankfully, a small water stain hadn’t washed away the contact information for someone I hoped to connect with again.

Nurse Jackie.

In late December 2019, immediately following our son’s eight-hour spinal cord injury surgery, Jackie was our nurse at St. Anthony’s in Lakewood, Colorado. Our son had to lie flat for 72 hours, except when he tried to eat and could “sit” at a slight 30-degree angle. The list of unknowns for his future and his vitals that needed to stabilize was longer than I could tally.

Jackie visited with my sister, my husband, our friends and me as she tucked pillows around Hunter to ease his discomfort and bring him rest.

She shared she was originally from Bismarck, North Dakota, and around my age. Jackie’s connection to our home area 900 miles away brought me comfort. She said she didn’t get back to Bismarck often but instead visited her parent’s lake home near Dent, Minnesota.

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I gasped. My sister laughed. Dent? We have a family lake home near Dent.

In the midst of uncertainty, Jackie provided necessary and attentive nursing care for our son in a neurotrauma ICU while giving us a glimpse of hope for his future.

Jackie was only Hunter’s nurse for one day during his three-month stay in Colorado. She took time off for the holidays, and by the time she returned, Hunter had been transferred to Craig Hospital for spinal cord rehabilitation. Her presence and direction proved to be perfectly timed. She confidently shared why we needed to go to Craig and what doctor would evaluate Hunter for admission.

A patient lies in a hospital bed while a family member reads over him.
Hunter Pinke on December 28, 2019, with his aunt reading messages to him, from his neurotrauma ICU bed. Hunter's nurse Jackie cared for him on a day shift in late December 2019. Jackie visited the Pinke family recently in rural Minnesota.
Katie Pinke / Agweek

I’ll never forget the comfort Jackie brought to me as a mother on that December day. I asked for her contact information.

On a yellow Post-It note at the end of her shift, she wrote her name, phone number, her parents’ names and their lake location. I folded it for safe keeping, never to find it until late this spring.

I sent Nurse Jackie a text — and she quickly replied. She was coming to Minnesota in the early summer. We planned a reunion at our favorite summer getaway.

Jackie arrived last Friday night with her mom and two friends. I greeted them in the driveway with hugs — an expression of my gratitude and joy for the journey we’ve traveled as a family since meeting Jackie.

When Jackie walked through the front door and saw Hunter she said, “You’re still jacked!” Her positive reaction meant the world to Hunter who was a college football athlete before the accident. He’s put in the time over the past 30 months to chase and accomplish new goals as a seated athlete focusing on wheelchair basketball at the University of Arizona.

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Hunter said, “You were the nurse best at the pillows.” My husband and sister recalled the same.

Her presence again, far from the hospital room, brought us comfort as we visited for an hour about life since late 2019.

Layers of lessons and blessings surround trauma and loss. At the root of the blessings are the people directly placed into your life for a purpose.

We all have a Nurse Jackie in our lives, a person who appeared at the right time and left a positive impact. It’s not by accident these connections find us. Give thanks for the blessings during brokenness, for the Nurse Jackies in our lives and, if you get a chance, thank those important people who bring hope.

Read more about Hunter Pinke's accident and recovery:

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

Opinion by Katie Pinke
Katie Pinke serves as Agweek and AgweekTV's publisher and general manager and since 2015 has written a weekly column. Pinke resides in rural North Dakota with her husband and children where she is a 4-H leader, active community volunteer, and a proud fifth-generation farmers' daughter.
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