By Danielle Anthony
Texas A&M College of Nursing student Madison Haley will graduate this May and begin her career as a pediatric intensive care unit nurse for Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. As a survivor of childhood cancer and former patient of Texas Children’s, this opportunity hits very close to home.
Madison was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was 6 years old, which was what inspired her to become a nurse. “As a child and as a patient, it is very scary,” she explains. “You don’t know what is going on. I remember my nurses being there and would make me laugh. They would be the only ones who could make me smile some days because I just felt so bad. They became my role models because I just loved the way that they made me feel. They made me feel so special. I don’t remember a lot of my treatment because I mentally blocked it out, but I do remember my nurses.”
Madison and one of her nurses, Janet Dejean, are still in contact today and will be colleagues once she starts her new career. Dejean, registered nurse and certified pediatric oncology nurse, had just started her career when Madison was diagnosed. “Even though I was a newer nurse, her family fully trusted me to care for her,” says Dejean. She worked three to four times a week and cared for Madison many times throughout her treatment course. “The patients spend so much time in the hospital, the nurses do their very best to make the best of the situation,” she continues. “We would do anything we could to make them laugh or smile!”
After Madison transitioned from inpatient to outpatient treatment, Dejean would periodically visit her and her family. Then, after Madison transitioned into long-term survivor treatment, she would only come in once a year and Dejean would only see her every other year. “When I would see them again it was like seeing an old friend,” Dejean says.
After losing contact for several years, the pair reconnected when Madison shadowed at Texas Children’s. Dejean has been a huge help while applying and going through the job process, according to Madison.
Although Madison had Leukemia from the ages of 6 to 9, she never got behind in school and has always wanted to be an Aggie. Her high school had many traditions like Texas A&M, which is one thing that she loves about the university. “I have always liked the traditions, so I felt like I really fit in here,” she says.
The faculty at Texas A&M have played a vital role in her experience. One professor in particular, Rebecca Burns, DNP, has really impacted Madison’s last semester at Texas A&M. “We have really gotten close because she has helped me through the application process,” Madison says. “I can always come to her with any question and she has really good advice.”
After attending Texas A&M, Madison believes that the Aggie Core Values will shape her career as a nurse. “I hold the core values very high,” she says. “Integrity is very important in nursing. It is the most trusted profession, so you have to have integrity in order for your patients to trust you.”
“The most rewarding thing about being a nurse is the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life,” Dejean says.
Madison looks forward to helping people and changing lives as she embarks on her new career. Nursing provides such a big opportunity to make a difference in the lives of patients and families, and she is excited for this new chapter. “With my story especially, I am able to provide hope to parents who are going through the same thing with their child” she explains.
“Madison has so much to offer as nurse,” Dejean says. “Not only is she intelligent, funny, and well grounded, she will have life experience to guide her as a nurse.” After experiencing two and a half years in the hospital, she understands the struggles the patients are facing. She will use this as a guide to shape her future in nursing.
Although Madison will be working in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Dejean will continue working in the Cancer and Hermatology Centers, their paths will often cross as the patients from the Cancer and Hermatology Centers often go to the PICU. “I am very excited to have her at Texas Children’s Hospital,” Dejean says. “She will be an inspiration to others who could also be going through what she went through as a child.”
Madison has learned to never take life for granted. “Even though I had cancer at such a young age, it has made me super grateful for everything. You never know what life is going to throw at you. Life is precious and you should enjoy it.”