When late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and wife Molly welcomed their second child, Billy, into the world on April 21, they never expected they’d have to watch their baby boy being rushed into open-heart surgery.
“My wife was in bed relaxing when a very attentive nurse at Cedars-Sinai Hospital — her name is Noonoosh [Aryazand Shakernia] — was checking him out and heard a murmur in his heart, which is common with newborn babies,” Kimmel explained during an emotional 13-minute monologue on the May 1 episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
“But she also noticed he was a bit purple, which was not common.”
After being evaluated by a pediatric cardiologist and having an echocardiogram, Billy was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia. As Kimmel explained, the baby’s pulmonary valve was completely blocked, and there was a hole in the wall separating the left and right sides of his heart.
Kimmel said Billy’s surgery was successful, although he’ll need two more as he gets older. Kimmel graciously thanked all of the nurses and doctors who helped save his little boy’s life — even joking if Billy had been a girl, they would have named her Noonoosh.
While the story of Billy Kimmel received much attention thanks to his dad’s fame, situations like these aren’t unique to the great work nurses do every day.
With more than three million nurses in the U.S., they represent the largest portion of healthcare professionals in the nation. Nurses take care of us long before we’re born, while we’re dying, and at critical stages in between.
Filmmaker Carolyn Jones documented some of those intimate moments in a book and documentary, titled “The American Nurse.” In addition, she’s releasing a second nursing documentary at the end of this year, titled “Defining Hope,” which takes a closer look at palliative care.
“As patients, we usually remember the names of our doctors, but often we forget the names of our nurses,” Jones says in her November 2016 TED Talk. “I remember one.”
In 2005, Jones was diagnosed with breast cancer. She managed well through all of her surgeries and the beginning of her treatment. However, when her chemotherapy was scheduled to start, she was terrified.
“…I knew I was going to lose every single hair on my body because of the kind of chemo that I was going to have,” she explains in her November 2016 TED Talk. “I wasn’t going to be able to pretend anymore as though everything was normal.”
While Jones went into her first day of chemotherapy an emotional wreck, everything changed when her nurse, Joanne, walked in and asked, “Where’d you get your highlights done?”
Jones was flabbergasted by the question. She was on the verge of losing her hair, and her nurse was asking her about it? Then Joanne told her the one thing she had overlooked: At some point, her life would get back to normal.
“She really believed that,” Jones says. “And so I believed it, too.”
Joanne made her feel normal for the first time in six months. Jones says they talked about Joanne’s boyfriends, looking for apartments in New York City, and about her reaction to chemo, all mixed in together.
“And I always wondered, how did she so instinctively know just how to talk to me?” Jones says.
Jones’ experience with Joanne marked the beginning of her journey into the world of nurses.
A few years later, she was asked by Fresenius Kabi, a global healthcare company, to do a project celebrating the work nurses do. For the next five years, Jones interviewed, photographed, and filmed nurses for “The American Nurse” project. The book chronicled the lives of seventy-five nurses across the country, while the documentary featured five fearless nurses who serve on the frontlines of healthcare.
The film also explored some of the biggest public health issues facing America, including poverty, war, aging, and prisons.
“Most of us have no idea of the depth of knowledge that nursing requires,” Jones explains in an August 2015 interview with the Campaign for Action, an organization working with policymakers, healthcare professionals, educators, and business leaders to respond to the country’s increasing demand for safe, high-quality, and effective healthcare.
“Nurses have a unique ability to find solutions. They’re like MacGyver — they can go in there and fix something with a paperclip! We think that all nurses do is take our temperature and blood pressure, or hold our hand and comfort us while we’re waiting for the doctor to show up. But we’re missing the boat. This has never been doctors versus nurses; it’s doctors plus nurses. It’s a team, and I don’t think we, as the public, see it that way.”
Jones’ second nursing documentary, “Defining Hope,” follows eight patients with life-threatening illnesses as they weigh what matters most about how they want to live — and die — and the nurses who guide them.
The film addresses our rapidly aging population and the current challenges we face in healthcare and end-of-life care. With technologies such as dialysis machines, ventilators, and ICUs that can “fix” us and keep our bodies alive, we aren’t dying the same way we used to. These new technological options have radically affected the way we make medical decisions in the twenty-first century. Despite how sick we get, “hope” is always there.
“Defining Hope” is scheduled to be released in November 2017, in honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.
Students enrolled in the online RN-BSN program at Duquesne University may advance in their life-changing roles as registered nurses. The bachelor’s degree in nursing includes a curriculum with courses in contemporary nursing, nursing and healthcare issues, nursing ethics across the lifespan, and more. Learn more about all of Duquesne’s online nursing programs at onlinenursing.duq.edu.