A childhood connection leads to a heartfelt career
Erin Hunter, RN, BSN, underwent her first open heart surgery to repair a congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot, or TOF for short, when she was just nine months old. She was referred to Children’s Medical Center by her physician after her mom noticed she lacked the energy of a typical infant, especially during feedings, and her fingers and lips occasionally turned blue. She would go on to have six additional open heart surgeries by the time she was 11 years old.
Though she faced such difficult and frightening circumstances at such a young age, she says she never really felt afraid.
“I knew I was in good hands,” she says. “I remember how compassionate everyone was, and I loved interacting with the doctors and nurses before and after each surgery, procedure or check-up.”
As a Children’s Medical Center patient, Erin also attended Camp Moss, an annual, week-long summer camp specifically dedicated to children with cardiac issues. She made lifelong friends who faced similar health challenges she was dealing with and had even more opportunities to get to know the incredible nurses and physicians who volunteered at camp each year. She says it was these interactions that led her to pursue a career in nursing. And of course, that career had to be at Children’s Medical Center.
“I knew I wanted to come back because I had such a connection during my years as a patient,” she says.
Erin went on to earn her nursing degree from Texas Christian University and is now one of the highly-skilled nurses in the Heart Center at Children’s Health. She’s been here since 2013 and believes her own background gives her great insight into providing the very best care for her patients and families, recognizing that by sharing her own story, it can give a family hope for their child’s future.
“I understand that for many of our families, when their child comes to the Heart Center it’s unexpected and certainly not what they had envisioned for him or her,” she says. “Many of our patients are going to need lifelong care, and it can be difficult for our families to cope or see past the next appointment. I am grateful that I can encourage them through my own experiences as a patient and reassure them that we will take excellent care of their child.”
She goes on to say, “"I believe it is never about ‘us’, but truly about everyone else and what we can do - small or large - that can impact and improve our patients’ lives in some way, maybe even making a lifelong impact. It is about giving back.”