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Texas Oncology's Online Campaign Appreciates Nurses, Health Care Workers

Publication: McKinney Courier Gazette

It took but a few seconds for Valorie Pollock’s lips to quiver, her eyes to water, as she walked through the infusion room for the first time. She needed chemotherapy – a bad nightmare – and she wasn’t ready. But she soon felt OK.

Holly Harris, a nurse at Texas Oncology- McKinney, was there for Pollock. She knew.

“I didn’t stop and ask for help, but Holly saw I needed that intervention,” said Pollock, diagnosed Feb. 11 with breast cancer.

As Pollock told her story, it was her way of showing “super thanks” for those who too often go unmentioned. Through its annual Thanksgiving program, Texas Oncology this month invited the public to say #SuperThanks to the over 3.5 million registered nurses and licensed practical nurses in the U.S.

Patients supported their favorite nurse or health care professional via Twitter and on Texas Oncology’s website and Facebook page. They used the #SuperThanks hashtag and recognized those like Harris who’d specifically changed, and in some cases saved, their lives.

“Nurses are nothing short of super heroes, expertly blending and balancing compassion with expertise,” said Dr. Steve Paulson, Texas Oncology chairman and president, in a released statement. “They often put patient needs ahead of their own, and they deserve our sincere thanks and admiration.”

Teary eyed sincerity poured from Pollock as she recalled her time at the McKinney office: a double mastectomy in April, chemo in May, and a “triple cocktail” of drugs through September. Without Harris and fellow nurses Shannon Henry and Marianna Tryggestad, she wouldn’t have gotten through it, Pollock said.

Together, the three nurses average 30 patients a day, Monday through Friday, with all of them overlapping at some point. At any given time, 16 are in a chair receiving chemo. They make the best for people at their worst.

“Once somebody is in that room, they’re yours – they belong to all of us,” said Harris, an oncology nurse for 30 years.

Henry, also a career-long oncology nurse, has been doing it since 1996. And Tryggestad, the youngest of the trio, got into it eight years ago in spite of her nurse mother’s wishes. “She always felt that nurses didn’t get the respect they deserved,” Tryggestad said. “I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Respect outside the hospital certainly seems light, at least in the mainstream. Television shows and movies often focus on doctors, with nurses as quick afterthoughts, barely noticeable appearances on scene. That perception couldn’t be further from the truth, according to the nurses, who said their doctors value their opinions – after all, nurses are the ones with patients most of the time.

Passion, instead of appreciation, drives them, though the #SuperThanks campaign is a public reminder of the latter. “I don’t need to be thanked, but it makes me happy that they feel like we were able to help them,” Henry said.

They help patients through 6-hour infusions, bouts of anger and gloomy progress reports. Death inevitably looms over their jobs, yet they steady a warming smile and timely encouragement. They skip lunch breaks to care for their patients.

Nurses are experts at just knowing – when a patient’s having a bad day, when their pain is too much, when they’re cold – and they respond with comfort. Pollock called them “cheerleaders to those going through the worst situation in their lives.”

Pollock started as a scared, doubtful soul heading into treatment; now, she said there’s “no reason to believe I won’t fully recover.” And her nurses have been by her since that first frightful day.

So, this holiday season, she and others are giving back the best way they can – with thanks.

“They never want the attention on themselves,” Pollock said. “Every person should marvel at how these particular people do what they do day after day.”

This story originally appeared in the McKinney Courier Gazette. To view this story, please click here.

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