Supporting Hands Nurse-Family Partnership

Client Story - Sam's Story

After several failed attempts to reach out to Sam byphone, Karen Mitteness ― nurse home visitor for the Supporting Hands Nurse-Family Partnership in rural Minnesota ― thought she may never connect with Sam. Karen was adamant to make this connection, but it was not working out.

It wasn't until Sam was at her local WIC office in Benson, Minnesota and her nurse there told her to speak with Karen, that a connection was finally made. Karen recalls Sam walked in her office and kindly said, "Hi, I'm the girl who never returns your phone calls." The relationship grew from there.

Twenty-four-year-old Sam had a lot on her mind and wasn't sure if enrolling in the Nurse-Family Partnership® (NFP) program was something she could manage. She had recently called off an engagement and knew she could use help since this was her first baby. "I really had no idea what Nurse-Family Partnership would offer. After meeting Karen that first day, she explained the program is there to prepare me to have my baby and we would discuss topics I wanted to learn about. I thought, 'I am about to have a baby on my own, I need the help!'" said Sam.

In the beginning, Sam was not comfortable opening up to Karen, but after several visits that all changed. "I am a private person and it was hard sharing with Karen," said Sam. "I now get excited to share things Izobel (Sam's daughter) does and I want to share everything all the time!" said Sam.

The relationship Karen and Sam built has helped Sam learn to take on life's moments, one thing at a time. "Learning I was pregnant was scary at first. I knew it wasn't going to be easy," said Sam. "I thought, 'Oh boy what did I get myself into. I have to bathe her on my own and get up in the middle of the night.'" Sam realized she was beginning a journey that would be both rewarding and difficult, but with Karen's help she learned to take on each moment as it happened.

"Karen has helped me be more relaxed about things," said Sam. "Karen says, 'Do what you can and that is all that matters.'" The support Sam received from Karen helped Sam in the most difficult times. When Sam was 20-weeks pregnant an ultrasound showed her daughter had a swollen kidney. "The doctors continued to monitor Izobel's kidney, but there was no improvement," said Sam. Sam's daughter would need kidney surgery. Karen and Sam discussed what to expect with Izobel's surgery. "Karen and I went over the surgeon's plans and orders. I think Karen knew better than I did that the surgery was going to be rough on me. She was right," said Sam.

When Izobel was 3-months old, Sam drove three hours in blizzard conditions to the Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota for Izobel's kidney surgery. Sam was terrified to drive in a big city and in bad weather conditions. "My home town of Appleton has about 800 people, we don't have a stop light in our town, so driving in a big city and in the snow was nerve wracking, but my friend and I found our way safely," Sam said.

Sam's daughter Izobel didn't just have one surgery for her kidney - she had three. Her first surgery was unsuccessful and had to be repeated. Izobel was also sent home with a suprapubic catheter. The second surgery was successful and Izobel's third surgery was to remove the stint placed on her kidney. While Sam was in the hospital she was gracious to the kind nurses who took care of her daughter and gracious to the guidance she received from Karen during that time.

"Izobel's nurses were amazing," said Sam. "Izobel's nurses taught me how to take care of her and my CNA training also made me less nervous about it all. After Izobel's surgery Karen reassured me that I was taking care of Izobel the way I needed to. It was nice having Karen there to talk about Izobel's surgery."

Taking care of Izobel after her surgery sparked more interest in Sam to continue her schooling for nursing. "I thought, 'These nurses are great. Why can't I do that too?'"

Karen will tell you one of Sam's strengths is when she puts her mind to something and has the support, she gets it done. Sam did exactly that. With Karen's support and motivation, Sam applied for an online licensed practiced nurse (LPN) program in Watertown, South Dakota and received the news she wasn't expecting to hear. "Sam was told she needed a letter that would demonstrate she was worthy of admittance," said Karen. Sam was determined to get accepted and asked Karen to write her a letter of recommendation. "I wrote a letter for Sam and she was told she was put on a waiting list," said Karen.

Being put on the waiting list did not stop Sam. She signed up for online classes with another institution and began taking courses. While attending a doctor's appointment for her daughter, Sam received a phone call saying she was admitted to the online LPN program in South Dakota and was overwhelmed with joy.

This was great news that would help her reach her goals.Sam would now take on even more classes since she was accepted to the LPN online program. Today, Sam plans to complete the LPN program and continue to go on and become a registered nurse. Sam is currently facing her most difficult semester. "I am taking 16 credits in school, I work part-time and I am Izobel's mother full time," said Sam.

Sam lives with her father, who is hearing impaired and divorced her mother when Sam was a young age. While her dad has been supportive, one of her goals besides obtaining her LPN and becoming a registered nurse is to move out of her father's house. "My dad is a great support to me and Izobel, but I don't want to live at home forever," said Sam. Sam currently is raising her daughter on her own, but has a good relationship with Izobel's father.

Little 1-year-old Izobel is the light of Sam's life. "She is outgoing and not afraid of anyone," said Karen. "Izobel is a gem!"

Sam shares, Izobel's unique way her name is spelled comes from a character from one of her favorite television series, but she made her name even more unique by spelling it with a 'z.'

Sam has learned to focus on her goals and has become a confident mother because of the NFP program. "This program has helped me so much, Karen is always so positive and makes me feel good about school and Izobel," said Sam. "Karen doesn't make every meeting only about Izobel, because once you have a baby it is all about the baby. Karen discusses school with me and my future."

The next challenge Sam faces besides balancing being a mother, school and working a part-time job is her daughter's vision. Izobel has to wear an eye patch three hours a day and wears glasses all day as well. "Izobel's gotten a lot better about wearing the eye patch and glasses," said Sam. "She of course doesn't like wearing the eye patch and glasses all the time and wants to take them off, but she is learning she has to wear them."

Izobel wears the eye patch to strengthen the muscles in her eye. "Sam is very good about keeping the eye patch and glasses on Izobel, which you can imagine can be a struggle at times, but she always has the patch and glasses on Izobel when we have visits," said Karen.

Sam and Karen's relationship continues to grow. If it wasn't for Sam making that initial connection that day in Karen's office, Sam's life would be different. "I would definitely be more uptight and worried that I was doing something wrong with Izobel. Karen has been great because she never puts me down or makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong, so I wouldn't have that positive support either. Karen gave me the push to go back to school. With Karen's help, I can make good decisions for me and Izobel. It's going to be strange when she (Karen) stops her visits." said Sam.

Karen will continue to visit Sam until Izobel turns 2-years old. Karen has seen many improvements in Sam and knows Sam will have a bright future. "I give Sam a lot of credit. She has demonstrated so much maturity and made many decisions. She focuses on her strengths and I see things moving in a positive direction for her," said Karen.

Postscript Sam completed her first semester with a 4.0 GPA and made the President's list. She and Izobel are doing well and Sam is looking forward to Izobel growing and learning more every day.

Sam will graduate from the Nurse-Family Partnership program in December 2014. This NFP agency is implemented by Supporting Hands, a 20-county project in rural Minnesota that provides NFP services to clients in Big Stone, Chippewa, Douglas, Grant, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Pipestone, Pope, Redwood, Renville, Rock, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, and Yellow Medicine Counties. Nurse-Family Partnership in Minnesota is part of a continuum of home visiting programs helping to assist diverse communities throughout the state of Minnesota.