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Riley’s Tessa Chapple: ‘The ICU Will Always Be Where My Heart Is’

Blog Riley’s Tessa Chapple: ‘The ICU Will Always Be Where My Heart Is’

For 15 years, Chapple was a nurse in the PICU at Riley. She says the experience was invaluable. It gave her the heart and the skills to now lead a team of nearly 35 nurses and technicians – as clinical manager of pediatric cardiology.


The butterfly pillow was always on her hospital bed. The colorful butterfly -- a sign of hope for a teenage girl who knew she wouldn’t be on this earth long.

Tessa Chapple was the girl’s nurse on the pediatric intensive care unit at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health all those 18 years ago.

She was there when the girl was given a terminal diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis. She was there when she was put on a ventilator and when the order came: do not resuscitate.

“We knew she was end of life,” says Chapple, who came to Riley in 1999, “but you just don’t know when that will be.”

Chapple was in the girl’s room when she heard her heart rate change on the monitor. She looked up and saw the rhythm slowing.

“That’s when I knew that was the night she was going to pass,” Chapple says. “I had developed a strong relationship with her mom and was privileged to be there with her the night she died.”

Chapple tears up as she thinks of what an honor it was to be there for the girl and her family.

That girl would be in her 30s now, but Chapple still has the butterfly pillow. Her mom gave it to Chapple as a keepsake.

“The ICU will always be where my heart is,” she says. “It prepared me for so much.”

***

For 15 years, Chapple was a nurse in the PICU at Riley. She says the experience was invaluable. It gave her the heart and the skills to now lead a team of nearly 35 nurses and technicians – as clinical manager of pediatric cardiology.

Chapple oversees the staff responsible for diagnostics and testing of the heart at Riley -- echocardiograms, EKGs, cath lab procedures, telemetry.

She always knew the medical world was for her. Chapple grew up in Hope, Ind., outside Columbus. She was valedictorian of her high school and planned to major in nursing and do pre-med at the same time to be a pediatrician.

But Chapple soon fell in love with nursing and never looked back.

She has learned a lot in her nearly two decades at Riley. When asked for her advice to new nurses?

“You have to appreciate you will never know it all,” Chapple says. “You learn that pretty quickly in the ICU. You have to be open to that and you have to be humble. You have to be open to feedback. You have to be open to life and death. It’s not always a happy ending. But it can still be a good ending.”

More With Chapple

Personal: Chapple is mom to four kids, Jonah, 16, Emerson, 13 and 8-year-old twins, Cooper and Campbell.

Outside of Riley: She is a “mom Uber driver” and runs a small, scrapbooking business as a hobby.

Bucket List: To visit all the national parks. She has been to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon; Grand Canyon National Park, North Rim; Death Valley National Park; and Sequoia National Park.

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.

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