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Brooke Callahan: From Starbucks to a nursing career

By Jill Osborn

Bright and early, around 4:30 a.m., Brooke Callahan arrives at work. She takes with her a work ethic that includes diligence and a cheerful demeanor. “I was raised to have manners — to say, ‘Yes, Ma’am, and No, Ma’am’ and to treat everyone like you wanted to be treated,” says Brooke. “The Bible was read to me every night at my grandparents’ house. Something that you say one day to someone can completely change their day. I’ll say, ‘This drink’s on me,’ and it is nice to see how happy people will get.”

Brooke is working at Starbucks as she goes to school in the hopes of becoming a nurse. Brooke’s attitude and values are no surprise, as she was raised in a family of hard workers. Brooke’s mom, Maxie, has been a pediatric sleep technician at Brenner Children Hospital for twenty-five years and is no stranger to working the third shift during the wee hours of the night. Brooke’s father, Tracy, also familiar with the third shift, has been an engineer at Baptist for almost thirty years. As a result, when Brooke and her little brother were kids, the two siblings would stay the night at her grandparents’ house.

“I have the best grandparents in the world,” remarks Brooke. “My grandparents did so much for us.” Typically, Brooke’s parents would work nights and take Brooke and her brother, Tyler, over to her grandparents around 6:00 p.m. “We would play and then go to bed. My grandma would cook breakfast and then my mom would pick us up at 7:00. We would get ready for school. Then my dad would take us to school. My grandfather would pick us up from school so my parents could sleep.”

Brooke and her brother, who is just fourteen months younger, lived this lifestyle for a little over a decade. Around the time Brooke was thirteen years old, Brooke and Tyler began to stay home by themselves at night while their parents worked. They would set the house alarm in order to stay safe. “I was never really scared. It was a big life change. My grandparents weren’t really happy about it because we were so close. But we still go out to eat almost everyday,” notes Brooke. Being at home seemed like a simple task for Brooke. Plus, it encouraged independence and responsibility. “I started cleaning at a young age. I was ready to stay home and get my laundry done. It was an inconvenience going back and forth to my grandparents’ house. I’ve always been sort of independent and strong willed. I am a person who takes care of something. I am not a procrastinator at all.”

It may come as no surprise that Brooke knows exactly what she wants to do with her life and has taken the necessary steps to achieve her goals. Brooke, who is twenty-five, is looking forward to marrying her high school sweetheart, Robert. However, there are a few priorities she wants to address before that happens. “I want to be financially set before we get married,” she says. Brooke believes she can achieve this, in part, by going to nursing school. She anticipates beginning the application process for nursing school in the spring of 2018. She is already a nurse’s aide at level two on the orthopedics trauma floor at Baptist Hospital. This experience has helped her see exactly what she wants to be doing and where she should focus her studies and career.

Brooke’s current patients range from all ages, but many are elderly and getting hip replacements. She also sees patients with gun shot wounds and people younger than her who have been in car wrecks. “Some are total-care patients where they can’t do anything for themselves. Others you only go into their rooms when they call on you,” says Brooke. “These patients are going to go home eventually, but it’s hard not to get attached, especially to the older patients.”

Before the patients go home, Brooke makes sure to give them first-class service. Everyday tasks we may take for granted can really make a difference in a patient’s recovery. Brooke notes, “Baths — you would be amazed how much better a patient feels after they get a bath. Water — even if they don’t ask, making sure that it is filled and they get a good meal. You don’t know what it will be like when they go home and they need a good meal before they leave.” Brooke acknowledges that a lot of people in the hospital have trouble asking for help. “They have pride and don’t want to have to ask for things because they don’t’ want to feel like a burden. I feel like I hear the word, “burden” about 100 times a day. I tell them it’s my job to take care of them.”

Ultimately, Brooke is hoping to work in a department where it takes a very special kind of human being. She wants to be a nurse for the pediatrics oncology department at Brenner Hospital. She cites two main reasons for her interest in this field. First, she has always wanted to better understand how cancer has developed over the years and the research that is being done to try to stop it. The second reason came from observations she made when she would visit her Mom when she worked at Brenner. “I would get on the elevator with children who had cancer and they were the happiest children. So happy. They would say thank you and talk to you. Knowing that they might not live to the ages of five to preteen, but to be so happy — you just don’t see that a lot in adults. I love children and have always. The fact that I could do whatever I can to make that child’s day better — I would just like to help out in that area. I have always been drawn to the concept of making a difference when I do become an RN.”

There is no doubt our neighbor will make a huge difference in many people’s lives. Perhaps, it is because she agrees with Steve Mariboli that, “A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”

“Your Neighbor” is a feature by Jill Osborn. If you have a neighbor everybody should know, reach Jill at jill.n.osborn@gmail.com. Also follow her blog on parenting at MuchAdoAboutMothering.com/