Christy Byrd, RN, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Scottish Rite Hospital

AJC Celebrating Nurses honoree: Christy Byrd, RN, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Scottish Rite Hospital

Christy Byrd knows the role a nurse can play in a sick child’s life, having been hospitalized many times herself for the rare, genetic connective tissue disease Ehlers-Danlos.

“My dad was a single parent, so he couldn’t always be there,” said Byrd, a nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Scottish Rite Hospital. “So, who became your best friends? Your nurses.”

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She grew up in a small town outside of Dallas, Texas, moving to Georgia in her early 20s and pursuing a career for about 10 years as a medical assistant.

At age 32, she recognized her life’s calling and put herself through nursing school. She graduated at 35 and has been working in the in-patient rehabilitation program at Scottish Rite for five years.

“I’m living proof that you aren’t defined by your disability and that you can overcome any odds,” Byrd said.

Her work as a nurse brings her “a lot of joy,” she said.

“We take kids who are critically hurt – normal, everyday kids for whom life has changed all of the sudden – and we try to give them the best quality of life we can.”

Her manager, Destiny LaShoto, said Byrd is an amazing patient advocate and is always looking for ways to improve patient care.

Working with members of the pulmonary team, respiratory therapists, social workers, and others, Byrd is in the process of developing a comprehensive training guide to help families with patient care at home, LaShoto said.

Byrd, who is prone to falling, bruising and other injuries because of her disease, also volunteers at her church, helping patients with lines and drains so their family members can attend church, her boss said.

“She is helping to build a daycare type program in the church that will allow for respite care for family members,” LaShoto said.

“My big thing is to give back to the community and those kids who are underserved,” said Byrd, who is married and has two teenage stepchildren. “Just because we are different doesn’t mean we don’t want to live a normal life.”

She is currently working on her master’s degree in nursing and hopes to one day do more teaching.