Hope College June 2013 : Page 20
Graduation ’13 Lessons from the G raduating nursing major Stefani Pentiuk understands well the impact that both an organ donation and outstanding health care professionals can make. At eight years old, she had heart-transplant surgery, her only hope for survival after a virus had attacked her heart, swelling it to 2.5 times normal size. At 17, she received a new kidney, donated by her mother, because her own had been damaged by the anti-rejection medicine she’d taken in conjunction with the prior procedure. She tracks her career choice directly to the role that medical professionals have played in her own life, not only through their technical expertise but because of the extraordinary compassion that helped her weather difficult times. She wants to do the same for others. “When you’re a patient, you can either have a great experience in the hospital or you can have an awful one. The nurses and doctors make it or break it,” said Pentiuk, who is from Leland, Mich. “I had the best nurses, and I was just inspired to be one of them.” Heart A physician’s kindness and promise kept made a tremendous difference to a young child about to experience a heart transplant, a story shared during Chapel on wednesday, April 24, when that now-grown patient, graduating senior stefani pentiuk (center), and that physician, Dr. michael Ackerman (left), were interviewed by Chaplain paul Boersma ’82. Dr. Ackerman also spoke during a presentation about organ donation sponsored by the Nurses Christian Fellowship later in the day. One of those caring professionals, Dr. Michael Ackerman of the Mayo Clinic, joined Pentiuk on campus during the last week of classes in April for events that highlighted the importance of organ donation and also explored how faith can inform the character of care. They were interviewed together in Chapel by the Rev. Paul Boersma ’82, who is the Leonard and Marjorie Maas Endowed Senior Chaplain, and Dr. Ackerman was later a featured speaker during an evening presentation organized by the Nurses Christian Fellowship student group. Dr. Ackerman is on the staff of Mayo Clinic as a consultant in Pediatric Cardiology and Windland Smith Rice Cardiovascular Genomics Research Professor and Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics and Pharmacology. He was part of the team that treated Pentiuk in September 1999, serving at the time in his pediatric cardiology fellowship training. With young children of his own, he was deeply affected by the young girl who needed a heart, and when, en route to her transplant surgery, she asked whether or not she would live, his heart provided an answer. The outstanding and compassionate care that Stefani Pentiuk ’13 had as a young heart-transplant patient at age eight has inspired her to pursue nursing as a career, so that she can make the same difference in others’ lives. stefani at eight years old. “I said, ‘Stefani, of course you are. And not only are you going to live, but I’ll be dancing with you at your prom,’” he recalled. Ten years later, Dr. Ackerman kept his word, surprising her by tapping her on her shoulder at her senior prom and asking for a dance. (The song? “Bless This Broken Road,” by Rascall Flatts.) It was a gesture that even made the national news. CBS featured Pentiuk, her parents Perry and Heidi, and Dr. Ackerman in a segment on The Early Show in June 2009. Dr. Ackerman admits that he’s not sure why he made a promise that included something as specific as a prom. “Why would you mention prom to an eight-year-old, anyway?” he said. He is, however, sure of why he offered assurance of a future to a child who needed it. While speaking in Chapel, he noted that people of faith, whatever their vocation, are called to “breathe life into people with our words. Give a word of hope, of encouragement.” He expanded on the idea when addressing the nursing and pre-medical students attending the Nurses Christian Fellowship event. “Don’t be one of those who goes through the motions without the emotions,” Dr. Ackerman said. “This isn’t a job that you have. This is a passion that you have to fulfill.” “When you love people, you’ll do more than do your drill and leave,” he said. “Each of you is going to be a minister to those in need, and that’s an incredible privilege.” As she considers her own career path in health care, Pentiuk has thought carefully about the type of light she hopes to be, and is anxious to work with young patients facing the same sorts of challenges she experienced. “I think I can relate to them the most,” she said. “I would love to work with transplant patients eventually.” 20 News From From Hope Hope College College News
Lessons from the Heart
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