Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community

 

When the hospital is home

Petie Cote (left), a nurse who acted as a surrogate mom during Misty Blue Foster's hospital stays, shared important milestones such as Foster's wedding and graduation.

   

 

By Misty Blue Foster

In my doctor’s office, a screensaver caught my eye:“Share your memories from the hospital’s opening 25 years ago.”I flashed back to a memory of a pink T-shirt inscribed with “I Opened the Doors.” I remember fitting my small handprint onto a tile that is now cemented to the entrance pillars of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Today I am 30 years old and still a patient: My complex conditions require the care of specialists who have been with me since childhood. I consider the hospital my second home, and the people I’ve met there are my family.

Born three months premature with a heroin addiction, I was diagnosed with spina bifida and cloacal exstrophy, a rare birth defect of the abdominal wall in which the organs are outside the body. These conditions come with a host of related complications that led to frequent hospitalizations throughout my childhood.

When I was 5 years old, my mom passed away in prison due to health issues from years of drug abuse. I was placed in permanent foster care, the beginning of 14 painful, difficult years in the system. I didn’t get the medical care that I needed at home and endured extremely unsanitary living conditions, which often led to serious infections.

I have had more surgeries than I can count to maintain function in my bowels, bladder, spine, pelvis and hips. Because I didn’t have a parent to advocate for me, I learned to be my own advocate and to ask lots of questions so I could be informed of the decisions being made about my care.

Foster with pediatric urologist William Kennedy, MD, at the 2009 ABC/HEA International Exstrophy, Epispadias and Hypospadias Conference, where she was a featured guest speaker.

   

My nurses and doctors, concerned about my lack of parental support, were the first adults who respected my voice and made me feel safe and deserving of a good chance in life. 

One nurse in particular, Petie Cote, RN, visited with me in her off hours, bringing me my favorite snacks and taking me on walks around the hospital. Today Petie remains a huge part of my life. She gave me away at my wedding in 2006, and I even call her Mom.

I also have Packard “grandparents.” I met “Grandpa” Dave Olsen when he came to read stories to me as a volunteer. He assured me I wasn’t alone and kept true to his promise. We’ve stayed close for many years, sharing holidays and life’s milestones.

I got married in my 20s and started to see adult specialists. I expected to phase out of the children’s hospital, but I always came back to William Kennedy, MD, chief of pediatric urology. Despite my unstable home life, his care has remained consistent ever since I was 9 years old. He knows me and my history and is able to treat my congenital complexities, which adult specialists have struggled to navigate.

Thanks to the support of my Packard family, I was inspired to pursue my dream of becoming a nurse. When administrators reviewed my application and doubted I was physically capable of such a demanding job, my doctors spoke up on my behalf. Today I am a licensed vocational nurse at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, and I am pursuing my master’s degree in public health at San Jose State University.

I hope that my work as a nurse will allow me to pay forward the extraordinary care I’ve experienced throughout my life. I’ve always said, “You can’t control what you are given in life, but you can control what you do with it.”

I strive for that every day.

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