Hi, my name is Maria Summers and I am 25 years old and have Nager Syndrome. While I have never let this diagnosis define me as a person, it has helped to shape my life and led me to become the person I am today. For those of you who don’t know about Nager Syndrome it is a condition in which there are multiple craniofacial, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and respiratory issues. When I was born I had a bilateral cleft lip and palate, I was missing the radius in both of my arms causing me to only have four fingers on each hand, I don’t have much of a jaw line, and I had a lot of reflux and eating problems. Some of these led to other conditions like chronic ear infections that have led to hearing loss, and the need for a tracheostomy to help me breathe and a feeding tube for 2 years. In total I have had over 21 surgeries, and still have 2 more to go through in the next year. While all of this can sound extremely overwhelming, and at times it was, it has also been a blessing in disguise. Because of the things I have been through, and the many medical professionals I have met throughout my time in the hospitals, I have found my calling to be a nurse. I am currently in nursing school and will graduate on December 19, 2013. I plan to work with children, and to incorporate mission work into my career as a nurse.
There are two defining reasons that I feel called to be a
nurse. The first reason I feel called to be a nurse is my faith. When I was
younger I struggled a lot with questions of “Why me?”, “Why do I have to go
through all these medical problems?”. What I came to realize and appreciate is
that I may never fully know the reason behind why I was born this way, but that
God has a plan for me and Nager Syndrome needed to be a part of it. As I have
grown I am starting to see part of the reason I was born with this condition. I
believe I was born with this syndrome so that I could be a better nurse than if
I weren’t born with Nager Syndrome. Could I have been a nurse without having to
go through all of this? Yes, but because of all I have been through, I can
relate to my patients in a way that many of my fellow nurses cannot. When I treat someone, especially a child, who
is struggling with a medical condition and is upset about having to be in the
hospital, I am able to understand, to a degree, what they are going through. I
am able to empathize and sympathize with my patients in ways that I know I
would not be able to do if I never had my experiences growing up with Nager
Syndrome. Because of my condition and all that I have been through I have great
compassion for and a love for helping others.
|Mission Trip with Operation Smile to Morocco in June of 2008|
The second reason has a little bit of a story behind it, and it involves a doctor that my mom encountered when I was just a baby. My diagnosis was one in which no one really knew anything about, and therefore did not know what my future would hold. While I can appreciate that, what this one doctor said to my parents I cannot appreciate. This doctor told my mom “not to have any hope for” me. This story has stuck with me ever since the first time my mom told it to me because it has been a source of determination for me. I have strived to prove this doctor, and any other that may have been thinking the same thing, wrong. This statement has helped develop my call to be a nurse because I want to provide hope to other families who may feel hopeless at times. I want to be able to look at a mother and say we may not know what is in store for your child, but there is always hope.
I am thoroughly looking forward to graduating in the next couple of months and starting my career as a nurse. I am excited to see what my future holds as far as the people I am going to meet and help along the way. I have had the opportunity to travel on two missions, one with my nursing school this past May, and one with Operation Smile. Both trips solidified in me my love for nursing, but I think the trip with Operation Smile was the most impactful. On this trip I was able to participate in changing the lives of over 160 children and adults with various craniofacial deformities. Having the ability and opportunity to reach out to people who do not have the same medical services that we have here in America was life changing and is what I look forward to most because I have chosen nursing as my career.