Lakeland Health Care

Patient Stories

Celebrating Survivors

Age Diagnosed
Feature Story

Annabelle Holt is only 4 years old, but she likes to pretend that she’s a nurse. That might seem unremarkable, but it wasn’t always this way. Everything changed after she met Valarie White, RN.

Like most children, Annabelle detested trips to the hospital. It usually involved needles and “yucky” medicine. Her mother, Nicolina, or Nicky for short, could relate, but she suspected a trip might be inevitable when Annabelle developed respiratory troubles.

That was confirmed after a visit to pediatrician David Driscoll, MD.

“Dr. Driscoll is great,” said Nicky, 37, who lives in St. Joseph. “He said that Annabelle needed to go to the hospital and called for direct admission.”

Nicky and Annabelle quickly made the trip to Lakeland Medical Center, St. Joseph. After completing some tests, she was diagnosed with pneumonitis (noo-moe-NIE-tis). It’s a frightening condition caused by inflammation of the lung tissue. This leads to breathing difficulties and often coughing. It’s the 15th leading cause of death in the United States.

Annabelle’s oxygen levels in her body were dangerously low. She would have to stay at the hospital. She needed respiratory treatments and, worse still for her, an intravenous line (IV).

“She was scared, and sometimes children have to be immobilized for their safety when they get an IV,” Nicky said.

“Annabelle wanted to sit in my lap. Valarie came in and was as sweet as could be. She let Annabelle sit in my lap and immediately put her at ease. She didn’t even flinch when they put in the IV.”

Things were going great until she noticed the bed.

“It was a big metal crib with a cover over it,” Nicky said. “It looked like an oversized bird cage.”

Annabelle, still 3 years old at the time, didn’t sleep in a crib at home. Naturally, she wanted a regular bed. Valarie came to the rescue again.

“I just wanted to make her comfortable because I care about my patients and know how intimidating it can be for a child to be in the hospital,” Valarie said. “It was an easy decision. I arranged for Annabelle to get a different room without a crib and more space for the family.”

Valarie currently serves PRN, or as needed. At the time of Annabelle’s hospitalization, she cared for patients on the Medical/Oncology unit and floated to Pediatrics to provide extra help during a shift.

“Valarie was amazing,” Nicky said. “She transformed what could have been a scary experience into something positive that Annabelle will never forget. She respected Annabelle, talked to her like a real person instead of a kid, and explained everything.”

Annabelle made a full recovery. She’s back home enjoying time with her mom, dad, and her older brother. She never used to pretend that she was a nurse, but Valarie changed all that.

“It’s one of her favorites now, and one of the first things she did when she came home,” Nicky said. “We’re so grateful to Valarie for everything.”

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