Archive for Sunday, May 13, 2007

LMH nurse role model for Free State sophomore

May 13, 2007

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Kama Fernandez, 34, and Melanie McCain, 15, treasure their quality time together - Kama works full- and part-time shifts as a nurse for Lawrence Memorial Hospital's cardiology and emergency departments, and Melanie is a straight-A student at Free State High School.

Kama Fernandez, 34, and Melanie McCain, 15, treasure their quality time together - Kama works full- and part-time shifts as a nurse for Lawrence Memorial Hospital's cardiology and emergency departments, and Melanie is a straight-A student at Free State High School.

Melanie McCain's essay

I can guarantee no one has met a mom like mine. My mom is not only a single parent but also a hardworking woman. For as long as I can remember, my mom has always been there for me no matter what, even in the worst of times when we would have no money, she would put me first. She sacrificed all of her happiness just to make me happier. Becoming a mother at the age of 19 is not every girl's idea of a good thing, but my mom made the best of it. While going through college, my mom would go nights without eating a full meal just to make sure that I was eating enough. Today, we have overcome all of the bad moments. She is still a single mom, a hardworking woman and a giver. She not only gives to me, but she also gives to other people. She works extra-long hours at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where she is a nurse in the Cath Lab and ER, to not only provide for me, but to also give patients adequate health care. My mom is an outstanding person and an astonishing mother. When I become a mother, I would be happy with being half as good as her because then I would know that I am doing enough for my children, considering my mom does more than what she needs to, just to make me happy.

Kama Fernandez already had been on her own more than a year when she graduated from Dodge City High School.

That could be why her daughter, Melanie McCain, has long been able to cook for herself, get to and from school and maintain all A's at Free State High School.

"Becoming a mother at the age of 19 is not every girl's idea of a good thing, but my mom made the best of it," Melanie, a sophomore, wrote in her Mother's Day essay for the Journal-World. "While going through college, my mom would go nights without eating a full meal just to make sure I was eating enough. Today, we have overcome all of the bad moments."

It's been a long road for Kama, raising a daughter alone with little outside assistance and no aid - she didn't pursue any funding, not even food stamps.

"I learned I was pregnant, I made my decision and did things my way," Kama recalls. "It wasn't easy, but I've been blessed with the way she's turned out."

Kama worked odd jobs and put herself through college at Kansas University. Then she went to nursing school at Baker University. Today she works one-and-a-half jobs at Lawrence Memorial Hospital: full-time as a cath nurse in the cardiology department and part-time in the emergency department.

"I was interested in being a pharmacist, but I decided on nursing because it was more hands-on," Kama says. "It's more holistic."

Now she's considering going to school again for a master's in business administration so she can work in another side of health care. "Melanie and I might be students together," she says.

Melanie also is interested in a health career, although her passion is pathology. She has volunteered at LMH's pathology department, where she's seen "some interesting stuff," and enjoys TV shows like "C.S.I."

"I'd love to go to college in Georgia," she says, smiling at her mom. "But I probably should stick around ... maybe go to KU."

Time together is something Kama and Melanie would like more of - there's the challenge of Kama's hospital hours, and medical crises don't let up on weekends or holidays. Still, they spend Kama's time off together - shopping in downtown Lawrence, visiting hobby stores for beads and craft projects, watching television.

And lately, they've gone to the dog park with their new family member: 1-year-old Pasha.

"Melanie has wanted a dog for a long time," Kama says. "Pasha is good companionship."

The other challenge: Melanie's activities when Kama isn't at home.

"She's limited a lot - sometimes she can't do what she wants when I don't know the parents or what's going on," Kama says. "No friends over when I'm not home. I trust her, but there's always peer pressure."

Melanie smiles and shrugs her shoulders. "She worries. She knows I won't do stuff, but she tells me stories from the hospital ..."

Indeed, Kama's ER stints mean she sees young victims in a parent's worst nightmare: car accidents, drug overdoses, assault.

"I trust her, and I'm blessed," she says of Melanie. "I hope when she's older and faced with some of the things out there, that she'll make the right choice."

Melanie says she'll comply, calling her mom an "outstanding person."

"When I become a mother, I would be happy with being half as good as her," Melanie wrote in her essay, "because then I would know that I am doing enough for my children, considering my mom does more than what she needs to, just to make me happy."

- Special sections editor Christy Little can be reached at 832-7254.

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