OPINION: Death inspires Kennestone nurse to do ‘what I was meant to do’

Nadine Lynch is the unit manager for Wellstar Kennestone Hospital’s Green 4 North Intensive Care ECMO Unit, where most of its COVID-19 patients are housed. (Courtesy of Nadine Lynch)
Nadine Lynch is the unit manager for Wellstar Kennestone Hospital’s Green 4 North Intensive Care ECMO Unit, where most of its COVID-19 patients are housed. (Courtesy of Nadine Lynch)

Credit: Courtesy of Nadine Lynch

Credit: Courtesy of Nadine Lynch

Nadine Lynch was sitting in a funeral service of all places when she finally realized God’s plan for her life.

For years before that day in 2006, Lynch had felt stuck, not sure about much of anything, including what she wanted to be or do with her life. She questioned for the first time if anything she’d done up to that point even mattered.

Then in a mix of tears and laughter at her cousin’s funeral, a preacher raised a singular and probing question: What are you doing with your dashes?

That is to say what will people remember about you when you’re gone?

“That day, I became very intentional about what I wanted to do and the difference I wanted to make,” Lynch said. “It changed how I saw my life.”

She was no longer willing to ignore her calling. Come hell or high water, she was going to become what she was born to be.

A nurse.

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Not only are they present at the beginning of life, they are there at the end and often during the in between — the dashes.

It could be argued, in fact, that nurses are the heart and soul of our community.

It is why The Atlanta Journal-Constitution each year shines a spotlight on the work that they do.

The newspaper’s annual Celebrating Nurses Awards, which honor both registered nurses and nurse leaders, coincide with National Nurses Week held each year in the first week of May.

Know someone who you believe has made a significant difference in the lives of their patients and their families through compassionate and selfless service? Here’s your chance to let the rest of us know.

You have until Jan. 31 to nominate your favorite.

This isn’t an endorsement, but I get the feeling Lynch would be ideal.

She’s the 53-year-old unit manager for Wellstar Kennestone Hospital’s Green 4 North Intensive Care/ Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO, Unit, where most of its COVID-19 patients are housed.

Before her cousin’s funeral that day 14 years ago, Lynch was a respiratory therapist, flying all over the country picking up sick infants, who were in critical need of ECMO, heart surgery and other interventions.

“I loved it, but I always felt like a big part of my life was missing,” she said.

Nadine Lynch dons personal protective equipment before checking on a patient at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital. (Courtesy of Wellstar Kennestone Hospital)
Nadine Lynch dons personal protective equipment before checking on a patient at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital. (Courtesy of Wellstar Kennestone Hospital)

Credit: Courtesy of Wellstar Kennestone Hospital

Credit: Courtesy of Wellstar Kennestone Hospital

If you’re like me, you might be wondering: What’s the difference? Aren’t they one and the same?

Well, not exactly.

Nurses assess patients as a whole. They perform head-to-toe physical assessments, integrate psychosocial needs into the plan of care, and often employ alternative medicine to care for patients. Respiratory therapists assess the cardiopulmonary status of patients and implement interventions as needed.

Lynch believed the time had come to do the former and finally live her life on purpose.

Within days of the funeral, she went in search of an accelerated registered nurse program and found one at Georgia Southwestern State University, but the deadline to enroll had passed.

Lynch applied anyway, writing a letter explaining why she deserved a slot in the 15-month program. After a brief stint as a medical secretary, she’d worked as a certified respiratory therapist, first at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and then at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She was considered a go-to person for administering ECMO for NICU and pediatric patients, a treatment option now showing promise for those suffering from COVID-19.

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Lynch would soon return to Children’s National but in 2005 decided to take a job at the Medical Center of Central Georgia to be closer to her elderly parents, who’d retired in Fayetteville.

I’m your person, she told Georgia Southwestern.

They believed her.

Lynch graduated in December 2007, joining a long line of family members, including her mother, who’d made nursing their life’s work.

“It was in my DNA,” she said.

There was just one problem. Lynch had preferred caring for infants, and there was a freeze on new nurse hires at area hospitals.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.

Lynch compromised and filled a slot at the Medical Center of Central Georgia (now Navicent Health), caring for adult Neuro - ICU patients, before moving on to Piedmont, where she was an ICU manager, then Southern Regional as the Critical Care service line director.

On April 25, 2019, Lynch joined the staff at Kennestone that is set up to administer, you got it, ECMO to COVID patients.

She and the team she manages on 4 North take care of extremely ill patients who suffer with everything from respiratory and renal issues to sepsis and the coronavirus. They stop at nothing to make sure every patient gets well and returns home to their dinner tables.

Looking back, she realized God was preparing her for such a time as this, that even though we don’t always understand everything life hands us, it has a way of preparing us for what’s ahead and leading us home.

Now, she says, she’s living her best life.

“We do hard work but we also do heart work,” she said. “I totally love it. I’m doing what I was meant to do.”

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

Celebrating Nurses Awards

To nominate a registered nurse: visit www.AJC.com/nominate-RN.

To nominate a nurse leader: visit www.AJC.com/cnleadership.

Deadline for nominations is Jan. 31. To find out more, visit www.ajc.com/ajcjobs/celebrating-nurses/

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