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Nicci Hawkins
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Nicci Hawkins

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Age: 49

Family:

Daughter Emily Hawkins, 23, and son Michael Hawkins, 17.

Where do you work and live?

Caldwell UNC Health Care and Caldwell County.

What path led you to become a nurse?

When I was 10 years old, my 15-year-old brother, Gary Dean Story was admitted to Baptist Hospital for a month and a half for a heart-related condition. When Gary came home, I can remember a CPR instructor coming into our home to teach my family CPR. My job was to call 911 and that was it. Despite medical and surgical interventions that were implemented during his stay at Baptist, Gary died on Good Friday, April 9th, 1982. Understandably so, his death changed our family as well as the many lives that Gary had touched in the community. Death is a part of life. As I got older, I can remember feeling that if I could prevent or ease another person experiencing that kind of pain, then I would.

What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced during the year long pandemic?

As a seasoned Critical Care nurse, the greatest challenge I have faced during the pandemic was uncertainty. This virus was nothing that anyone had ever seen. It hit hard and was not selective in its path. Usually my ICU has 12 beds but with the increased amount of patients requiring ICU admissions, two more support beds were added for non-vented patients. In 27 years, I have never experienced the amount of patients requiring ventilatory support. It was daily. Deaths were increasing at an overwhelming rate. At times, all 12 beds were holding ventilated patients. The ICU was restricted to visitors. Families could not be with their loved ones during their final moments. No time to say good-bye. No familiar touch. Only their voices over the phone held to a patient’s ear and through Facetime were allowed. This was someone’s spouse, parent, child, and/or sibling. No one ever died alone. My co-workers made sure of that. Someone was always with that person to hold their hand. This was not the way it was supposed to be but this was our new reality.

Who or what inspires you to care for others?

First and foremost, it is my faith in Christ that inspires me (Matthew 25:40). My inspiration also comes from my family, friends, and my healthcare team. My children were amazing. They helped me cook and clean and always asked me how my day was. They took a vested interest, told me how proud they were of me, and always ready to give hugs. My immediate family would give words of encouragement and at times be silent just to let me speak. My friends would text and send cards. The community would send the hospital cards, food, and do drive-by show of support with signs. It was nice to know that what we were during mattered. The biggest inspiration were my co-workers. We understood one another. When one of us got sad, there was always someone there to pick up your spirits or just let you vent. We had each other. I could have not gotten through this past year without their support. You could not do this alone. We all felt one another’s fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and sadness but we also felt one another’s triumphs and victories over the smallest battles won against COVID-19. We are family. Nursing is not just what we do, it is who we are.

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