Tough Teenage Patient Pens Tender Handwritten Note To His Riley Nurse

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Katy Carrasquillo has been bringing comfort to patients at Riley for 12 years. Then, she received an unexpected note that reminded her she makes a difference -- and she was meant to be here.

She was taking care of a teenage boy who was trying so hard to be tough -- like teenage boys often do.

Katy Carrasquillo took care of him for three days straight at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. She and that boy bonded.

Each day, he got better. Carrasquillo was able to remove the tube from his nose. She got him to walk around the unit. They talked about soccer. She convinced him to eat and take pain medicines, which wasn’t easy.

Remember, that boy was tough. He didn't want to seem like a wimp. 

And then, that tough boy did something Carrasquillo will never forget. The day he was discharged, he wrote Carrasquillo a note. She will never throw that note away.

When you took care of me, I felt at home and I felt safe. You made the scary things less scary. You were my number one cheerleader and fan.

“He was twice my size but he gave me the biggest hug when he left,” says Carrasquillo, who is day shift coordinator on 9 East at Riley. “It was the little note he gave me during a rough week at work that reminded me that I do make a difference and I was meant to be here.”

Carrasquillo is most certainly meant to be at Riley. She is a standout nurse who has been at the hospital for 12 years. She was nominated this year for Riley’s most prestigious award -- the Margaret Martin Award -- for her leadership skills and work to improve infant safe sleep. Yet, day to day, the impact Carrasquillo makes on each and every patient is remarkable.

What drew her to nursing: “Ever since I was little, I just loved taking care of people.  I took care of my grandpa when he was sick and my mother was in the medical field. I also had an aunt and godmother who were nurses. I find great joy in taking care of people and making a difference in their lives. I'm very passionate about helping people and being that someone people can look to for support.” \

Getting through the tough stuff: “When I first started my nursing career, I became very attached to a lot of patients and it definitely began to wear on me. I had to figure out that fine line and the purpose of why I do what I do. As a nurse, I am merely a snapshot of our patients’ lives when they had to encounter this bump in the road. A fellow nurse once told me that I was chosen to do this profession for a reason and it comes with the good and the bad, and I wasn't created to do something I couldn't handle. If I weren't here caring for these people then who would? I have amazing coworkers that are like family to me and we just get each other. I also have an amazing husband and three beautiful daughters that support me and are proud of me.” 

What it takes: “I think to be a great nurse you have to be passionate about it first. I always try to put myself in parents’ shoes and treat the kiddos like my own. Being in the hospital with your child is one of the scariest things for a parent to have to go through. If I can do anything in my power to make the hospital stay less traumatic I do. I speak up for the patients when they can't themselves and I explain things to parents in a way they can understand so they can make those difficult decisions to the best of their abilities.” 

The little things: “I take an extra minute to cuddle them, to read to them, to sing to them, to play with them. If my children ever have to be hospitalized, I would hope that someone would care for them in this way. It is just who I am as a person.”

Through the years: “I have had many amazing nurses to follow in my career. They have taught me and molded me into the nurse I am today. And I have shared my wisdom and skills I have learned over the years to our newer nurses. One of the most important things I teach is compassion. Anyone can be good at IV's or knowledgeable about diagnoses, but not everyone can be that person who patients and families need. And if I can help show them the right path then I have done my job.”

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

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

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