Hardworking nurses will often meet and treat hundreds and hundreds of different patients each year. That’s why many will make an effort to balance empathy and objectivity while working in the medical field. For when a nurse becomes too attached to their patients, more often than not, it only leads to future heartbreak or problems with the patient’s family.
Retired nurse Lynn Bartos has helped countless strangers during the course of her long career. Although she’s forgotten many of their names and faces over the years, she’s learned that some people just “stick” with you for a reason….
Some people are lucky to find their “calling” early in life. Milwaukee, Wisconsin woman Lynn Bartos always knew she wanted to help people and decided to pursue nursing as a career after college.
A Long Career
Fast forward four long decades and Bartos realized just how many different patients she had encountered throughout her long career as a hospital nurse. And as much as she wanted to forget about some of the more difficult patients over the years, she just couldn’t get most of them out of her head…
Where Are They Now?
“Every nurse will tell you they have people or families who were special and just stay with you,” Bartos, now 67, told TODAY in early 2016. “People who were really sick and you wonder: Did what I do make a big enough difference? What are they doing now? Did they fully recover?”
Making A Difference
After 44 years helping people as a nurse, Lynn Bartos began doubting whether or not all her hard work made any difference in the lives of the countless patients she had treated. How would she ever know what became of them?
“When you get to be my age, you look back and think: Did all that stuff I do matter? Did it make a difference? Are people OK?” she said speaking to Milwaukee Journal. The nurse started to wish she didn’t remember so much or become so attached to her patients over the years, but her recollection would soon surprise her.
Can’t Shake Her
Throughout the years, there was always one little girl she couldn’t stop thinking about. Thirty years earlier, in the 1980s, Bartos was working as a primary ambulatory nurse at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin when she became a little too close to one of her tiny patients…
Shortly after Nicole “Nini” Frye was born in 1985, it became clear to doctors she had twisted intestines or “volvulus”. This is a fairly common problem that occurs in about 1 out of every 500 births in the United States each year and is caused by abnormal development while a fetus is in utero.
Stuck in the Hospital
However, it can cause serious intestinal obstructions in the newborn and may cause a blockage that can cut off the baby’s blood flow. In serious conditions, like with small newborn Nini, the intestines can be severely damaged and it can be life-threatening. Things didn’t look good for the poor little girl…
Poor “baby Nini”, as Lynn lovingly called her, was forced to spend most of her infancy stuck inside an incubator at the hospital, not with her parents. The tiny child was in terrible pain and lost a large portion of her small intestine. Her tiny body couldn’t even absorb all the nutrients she needed to survive.
In fact, for nearly the first three years of her life, Nini couldn’t eat on her own and had to be supplied with nutrition intravenously. Throughout this time, Lynn Bartos acted as Nini’s primary ambulatory nurse at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. She became very attached to the child and grew close to her family. It became clear that this nurse and patient shared a special bond…
Stronger Every Day
And over time, Nini’s improving health reflected the great care she was receiving from Nurse Lynn. She watched baby Nini grow from a helpless infant to a thriving toddler. Over time, Nini began eating solid food, gaining weight, and even got to finally go home to be with her family.
Children’s Nurse Magazine
Their bond was so special that when Nini was two years old in 1988, she and Lynn were even featured in an article in Children’s Nurse magazine, alongside mom Rosemary Frye. The story highlighted how close they’d become, so when Nini’s health thankfully improved and her hospital visits became more infrequent, it was bittersweet for her longtime nurse…
Then, in the early 1990’s, Lynn was transferred to a different hospital out of state. Her last day at Children’s Hospital’s Gastroenterology Clinic was the last time she would see little Nini, but she knew she would never forget her. After all, saying goodbye was part of the job for a pediatric nurse.
Since many babies born with volvulus in the 1980s didn’t make it, Lynn was happy to be part of a success story. “I remember Nicole and her family because they were so willing to do anything to help Nicole,” Lynn later told TODAY. However, the nurse never expected Nini or her family to remember her. How wrong she was…
Nini grew up relatively healthy and strong after her years in the hospital, despite some resulting issues with food absorption and nutrition. She married and became Nicole Krahn, and focused on her big career plans. Due in part to her near-fatal health struggles early in life and the influence of the dedicated medical professionals like Lynn Bartos who helped her, Nicole entered nursing school.
A Proud Profession
“I’ve always wanted to be a nurse but… nursing is high-stress and you need a lot of energy to do it, so it was more just if I could handle it,” she said to TODAY. “I have definitely used my past when I take care of patients — I make my nursing care based on the positives I’ve had.” In 2011, Nicole began work at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, where she would connect with a few “special” patients…
I’m A Nurse, Too
Nicole found herself connecting with one patient in particular: an elderly woman who would come in for rheumatoid arthritis treatment. Over time, the two got to talking, and the woman told Nicole she is now semi-retired, but also a nurse at Froedtert. However, she used to work at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Both women felt an odd connection to one another and a lightbulb soon went off. Lynn looked at her name tag and said, “Nini?” After nearly 30 years, the nurse had become the patient of the baby she cared for so closely. “She remembered everything. I was in shock… The circle of how it worked out is just amazing,” Nicole told TODAY.
The duo realized they had a special connection that dated all the way back to when Nicole was a baby. And although she doesn’t remember much from her time in the hospital, she could feel Nurse Lynn’s influence on her throughout her life. Lynn was equally amazed at how the passage of time had reversed their roles.
In 2016, Lynn Bartos retired after 44 years of nursing and hope she’d made a difference in her many patients’ lives. “You take care of people and you do the best you can. They leave your life and you never know the final outcome or what happened to them over the years,” she told TODAY. Lynn then realized she received the ultimate retirement gift. “That’s why I think it’s a gift that I was given to reconnect with Nicole at this point and I’m very grateful.”