Mary Poppins, Anne Sullivan and Florence Nightingale

What could these three women possibly have in common?

I fancy the idea that when it comes to taking care of Lia, it requires a bit of these three personalities all rolled up in one. Well, maybe not the personalities per se, but they are the muses and role models that I call on to guide my care and day-to-day interactions. These three ladies inspire me.

I am of the opinion, and sincerely believe that as caregivers and healthcare providers, sometimes we show up exactly where we need to be, when we need to be there. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. All of a sudden we’re just – there. Wasn’t Mary Poppins a little like that?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as poised and graceful as Ms. Poppins, and unlike her story, I actually tried to talk myself out of going back every night for a week. But I kept going back. And before I realized it, I actually wanted to go. I had started to believe that my being there actually made a difference. Although Lia and I had a pretty rocky start, we managed to work through our differences and find our happy place. And let’s face it, when Lia is happy, everybody is happy.

When I initially started this case, I described my duties as “Medical Nanny”. Lia has a few health issues beyond the autism and Down Syndrome that require the administration and monitoring of several medications, as well as monitoring her for changes in her medical status. She doesn’t always like the healthcare interventions I am expected to perform, so I often find it necessary to be both creative and patient. I also find it necessary to pay close attention to even the slightest changes in her status, because when things go wrong, they go wrong quickly and to the Nth degree. She can’t always tell me when something isn’t quite right, so she may have to demonstrate it with a meltdown. And then I have to call on my critical thinking, creative problem solving, and common sense to sort it all out.

Florence Nightingale is recognized as the “Mother of Modern Nursing”, she was good at recognizing problems and then figuring out ways to solve those problems. She was dedicated and persevered even in the face of adversity. She inspires me to be loyal to my work and devoted to fostering the welfare of those I am assigned to care for, such as Lia, even when the going gets a little rough.

Teaching is one of my dearest passions, and if an opportunity presents itself I’m all over it. I have found Lia to be a wonderful student. She watches and pays attention, even when you think she isn’t. And when she’s ready, she shares her new knowledge or skill.

When we’re working together, I actually see a scene in my head from that really old film, “The Miracle Worker”, where Anne Sullivan is at the water pump with Helen Keller showing her how to spell water. Sometimes, when Lia masters a new skill or task, she has that same look of exhilaration on her face that Helen had, and we celebrate. She celebrates because she did it. I celebrate because from my perspective I can see that with each task or skill she is able to master, more of the world opens up to her.

And yes, we have had a few of those not so blissful Anne and Helen moments depicted in the film as well. We don’t dwell on them, we just keep moving forward.

So, to you Anne, Mary, and Florence, I say, “Thank you.” I thank you for the inspiration that encourages me to keep going back to perform my duties to the best of my ability, in this place, with this child.


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