For these twin nurses, serving kids is personal
Sisters work in the same hospital where one of them once lay in a coma, close to death.
Deborah Circelli Published: 10/13/2017
It was not that long ago that Jessica Parker was a very ill patient in the same hospital she now works in.
“Some days I think how that used to be me in there and how my life has come full circle,” said Parker, a pediatric nurse at Wolfson Children's Hospital. “When I read my medical records, it’s almost frightening. I’m very thankful and very lucky. There is really no reason I should be standing here other than apparently I had some other purpose.”
Parker and her identical twin, Stephanie Mullikin, work with some of the same nurses and doctors that were by Jessica's side when she fought for two months to recover from toxic shock syndrome at age 15.
Doctors at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Wolfson Children's determined that Jessica was in toxic shock from staphylococcus bacteria. They told her family she had less than a 10 percent chance of surviving.
But with the help of a high-frequency oscillator, a special analyzer and nitric oxide that was part of a clinical trial, Parker rebounded. To this day, she still doesn’t know what caused her infection.
Her twin sister was by her side during much of that 50-day hospital ordeal, doing everything from brushing her hair to learning about tracheostomy care.
Even before kindergarten, the twins knew they wanted to be in the nursing field, but after Parker’s life-threatening illness, they realized their calling was helping children and their families.
Naturally, they graduated from nursing school together and have been working at Wolfson Children’s for more than 10 years. Both work the night shift, though on different floors. Parker works in hematology/oncology, the same unit that guarded her from infection when she was a patient. Mullikin works on a medical/surgery unit.
“You get to know these children on a more personal level because they come and stay for a while,” Parker said. “I like to see the kids get better and go home. It’s rewarding. Those little kids teach me more about life than anyone else ever has. They teach me to live for every moment.”
Mullikin once had visions of medical school, but changed her mind. “When I saw what the nurses did versus the doctors, I liked the hands-on nursing care and getting to know the families,” she added.
Michael Gayle, MD, a pediatric critical care specialist, enjoys seeing one of his former patients walking the halls as a nurse.
“Seeing how sick she was and how far she has come is a testament to the work we do in intensive care and the staff who were involved in her care,” said Dr. Gayle, now chief of pediatric critical care for both Wolfson Children’s Hospital and the University of Florida College of Medicine Jacksonville.
Dana Tyree was a health unit coordinator on the Hematology/Oncology unit when Parker was a patient. Now they work together on the night shift.
“The sisters have a different point of view than someone who has never experienced a life-threatening illness,” said Tyree, now an the assistant nurse manager. “It gives them that extra quality.”