Pulse Magazine honors ER nurse Suzanne Isaack of the Piedmont Fayette Emergency Department

This Piedmont ER nurse will walk the dog if that's what it takes

The world is full of people who feel very fortunate to have reached the ER in time. 

But these stories tend to be told by patients. ER nurse Suzanne Isaack feels like she is the one experiencing good fortune. "I'm lucky to get to be there," she says. "I'm lucky to get to help people on the worst days of their lives."

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A 20-year veteran at Piedmont Fayette Emergency Department, Lego received the DAISY Award in December 2017 from the DAISY Foundation (DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System). The award recognizes extraordinary nurses. 

Lego was cited for convincing a patient to stay at the hospital for tuberculosis treatment. The woman was initially afraid that admission would mean she had to take an HIV test. Lego assured her she didn't have to and impressed upon her how important it was to get treatment.

But the next deal breaker was that the woman couldn't leave her dogs without care. For Lego, that was no problem. She promised the patient that she'd travel to her home a county away and care for the dogs twice a day during her five-day hospitalization.

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A self-described "stealth figure," Lego ruefully admits that the exchange wouldn't have gone public if she hadn't been "caught" by a co-worker when she had to change into new scrubs at work after getting soaked in the rain one morning at 4 a.m. while feeding the dogs before her shift. 

To Lego, though, the incident wasn't that noteworthy. "I was in my comfort zone, it was nothing heroic," she protests. Lego has fostered 400 animals in the past 35 years and says this was just another way to care for both humans and the pet population.

Lego was drawn to the ER right out of nursing school. Later, a friend had a bad experience in the ER and Lego likes being the "person who stops that bad thing from happening."

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In a career path where burnout claims many victims, Lego seems likely to hold out for years to come. She says it's genetics and points out that her mother still delivers Meals On Wheels at age 91.

A firm believer that "you really can make your own happiness," Lego refuses to dwell on the downside of providing care during personal catastrophes and for highly vulnerable populations. "The hard stuff, that's not what I live for. I don't live in the negatives," she says.

Instead, she revels in her ability to be a watchdog for her patients and enjoys being around young people at work every day - to stay fresh.

"A lot of the patients who come in will laugh with me," she says. "Laughter, humor, is everything. And there's never a dull moment."

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