Carmen exemplifies skill, knowledge, professionalism, and compassion with a laser focus on the patient and family experiencing a life changing event. If it were not for Carmen Carvajal during our child's first chemotherapy experience, my daughter surely would not be doing as well as she is today. It just means the world to my husband and me and we wanted to share our journey.
The year, 2014, started out as any other Thanksgiving and Christmas whizzed by and we looked forward to an exciting new year. We planned our next family vacation and gave thanks to God for our bountiful blessing of health and togetherness. The paradigm shift started when K had been diagnosed with a "right eye sty" and was on antibiotics and prednisone. Over a 3 week period the sty increased by 300% and another bump started on the center of her forehead. Naturally, as her mother and nurse I knew it was the right thing to take her to the doctor again- even though I had taken her three times already...call it mother's intuition. Dr. L took one look at her and set her up for a skull/orbital MRI. The MRI and following PET scan confirmed our worst nightmare. In short, the tests showed multiple tumors all over Kelseys body. We met with Dr. D the next day.
Never in our lives did we think the words "I'm taking K to the hematologist-oncologist" would come out of my mouth. The biopsy was next. The initial read was lymphoma. After the biopsy and further testing it was discovered to be neuroendocrine carcinoma and later to be found as Merkel cell subtype. To our bewilderment, this has never been seen in a child or adult less than 25 years of age. My husband and I were in shock and I could not imagine what was coming our way, even with my 20 years of nursing experience. Dr. D discussed chemotherapy and the course of treatment. It was as if I were in a nightmare and could not wake up! He wanted to admit her immediately but we needed an overnight with her at home to explain it to her and to cry our eyes out.
We met Carmen Carvajal the next day during our first day in the hospital. She was very kind and gentle to K. She inserted the IV only after emla cream and explained each and every step. She was there to explain the chemotherapy and to give well needed micromedix regarding cisplatin, etoposide, etc. I was pleased to recieve the paperwork and a complete explanation, especially right before administration of the meds. Carmen understood us and knew my biggest fear was giving my child the incorrect medication.
She effectively worked with the team of RN's that took care of us to explain to them I needed to have the WOW outside of our room to see each and every med scanned and look at all the labels (all mom's do this, right?). She told K what to expect with surgery, tests and need for labs in a language she could understand. It was amazing how she took the time to gain my daughter's trust and build rapport. It is because of Carmen that my daughter says "wait, you have to explain it to me before you do anything." She made us feel comfortable enough to ask questions, ask about the future and cry.
Carmen really went above and beyond EACH and every encounter. She took an extremely scary experience and made it as positive as possible. K didn't get out of bed except to go to the bathroom after her port placement. Because of the trust she built with K, Carmen was able to encourage her up and out of bed and be able to go to the playroom. Carmen also suggested candy for the bad taste in her mouth as a result of the saline administration. She even taught K how to take oral pills- a skill NEVER before tried at home. She made sing-song out of names, and continuously raised K's spirit.
I have been a nurse for 20 years and was really impressed. At the end of our stay I knew the majority of care would fall on me. I was amazed once again that Carmen walked us to our car and wished us well. She instilled confidence in me to be able to administer the neupogen shots, clean up the vomit, promote eating and do it with grace, compassion and caring as Carmen had done in the hospital.
It is clear that Carmen loves her job, loves her patients, and is proud to be working for Baptist. Exceeding expectations is part of her DNA and it should be recognized! I am forever grateful since she was a lifeline during our darkest moment but as K always say, "only rainbows after rain."