by Vickie Jenkins – Writer/Photographer
Have you ever met someone for the first time and suddenly, you can tell they are a pleasure to be around? That they have an interesting story to share? This is how I felt when I met Coleen Valderrama for the first time. Valderrama is the Nurse Manager of Inpatient Rehab at Deaconess hospital.
While going to school in 1974, Valderrama worked as a Nursing Assistant at Deaconess Hospital. She graduated from OSU in 1976. Even though she wanted to work at Deaconess, no positions were available. She went to University Hospital where she was hired on the spot. Over the years, she worked at University Hospital, Presbyterian Hospital, and spent several years in the Peace Corps, living in Brazil. She came to Deaconess in 2003 and got her Bachelor’s Degree from OCU in 2008. Today, she is happy working at the place where it all began for her, Deaconess Hospital.
“Why did you become a nurse?” I ask. “Several family members were nurses including my mom. They all enjoyed the medical field. At age 14, I developed bone cancer in my shoulder and arm. At that time, there wasn’t any chemo or radiation so I had to have my arm amputated. I got such excellent care from the nurses, I decided that I wanted to be a nurse and help others. It left such an impact on my life. Even with the loss of an arm, I didn’t let that stop me. I was surrounded by supportive people. I am proud to say that I am a long time cancer survivor of 46 years. I have always tried to stay positive and have a bright outlook on the future. I know my life would have been different if I would have let my cancer stop me from being a nurse. I think Winston Churchill said it best, ‘Never give up, never give up, never give up.’ We don’t know the reason some things happen to us, and we may never know why but we need to believe in ourselves. Many have touched my life and I have touched many lives due to the cancer. All the encouragement I received over the years, I give to everyone in hopes that I might make a difference for them in a special way.”
“What is your biggest asset as a nurse?” I ask. “I think it is always staying positive and solving problems. I am always upbeat around the people I work with and sometimes, that can be hard to do when there are health issues, family crisis, financial worries, yet, we can’t worry. My role as a nurse manager is making sure the staff has everything they need as far as their patients go. I make sure the team depends on each other for team work. Reinforcing the patients that they will be taken care of and we will do the best we can.”
Asking Valderrama what keeps her motivated, she replies, “It’s each individual working as a team. We, as a team, care about our patients, and share a common goal of helping the patients help themselves, getting them back to a level of dependence. We focus on our care of the patients as a team. That keeps me motivated, knowing that we work with each other and we care about each other.”
“If someone was going into the medical field, what advice would you give them?” I ask. “I would tell them not to be overwhelmed. Find a mentor that you can look up to and never be afraid to ask questions. Know that you can do anything if you believe in yourself,” she replied.
Valderrama is an advocate on walking. She enjoys the great outdoors and nature. She likes to sew but most of all, loves spending time with her family. She has 3 sons, 3 grandsons and 1 granddaughter. I ask Valderrama how she inspires others? “I do the best job I can being kind, respectful and a great listener. Sharing my story with others gives hope to them.”
“What is your greatest blessing?” “I feel God is working in my life and through me. I believe in prayer and the presence of God.” “Any words of wisdom you would like to share?” I ask Valderrama. “Have the courage to step out and do things. Don’t put limitations on yourself. Don’t be afraid to live your dream…like flamingo dancing which is a precious memory of a dear friend and a true blessing for me.”