Craig Hospital nurses have to be exceptional as they serve on the front lines and work with patients who have suffered life-altering injuries. Patients who have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be challenging, but there’s one young nurse who is especially empathetic to their situation. “The harder the patient, the more I want to take care of them,” said Jeanie Sederberg, RN, BSN.
Jeanie has a unique understanding of what TBI patients and their families are going through because she lived it. Jeanie was first a patient at Craig after sustaining a TBI in 2009, the summer before her senior year of high school. She fell down cement stairs and spent nearly a month at Littleton Hospital before she was transferred to Craig where she underwent rehabilitation for almost three months.
“I remember the transport to Craig, but a lot of my stay is very hazy. I was minimally verbal when I got here,” says Jeanie. “When I began talking more, I only talked in whispers. The team taking care of me did tests on my vocal cords to determine if they were injured during my long intubation at Littleton. They turned out to be perfectly healthy, but for whatever reason I was whispering.”
During her stay, she had to relearn everything, including how to walk. She recalls doing a battery of tests. “At one point, I was asked to draw a house, so I drew what I thought was a perfect house. I thought I was completely healed and back to normal, but when I Iook back at my drawings, the roof and door of my house were in the wrong place. In that moment, I realized how far I had come.”
When she left Craig, she continued her high school studies, eventually returned to Littleton High School in January after her accident, and graduated in the spring with the rest of her classmates. A year after she first came to Craig, she left for Santa Clara University and graduated four years later with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
It was after she returned to Denver that she felt the tug toward nursing. She began working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) while she went back to school to earn a second bachelor’s degree in nursing. After four years of working as a CNA, with her bachelor’s and RN in hand, she applied to Craig’s new graduate program and began working at Craig in November 2016. “As a new nurse, I did not think I would end up at Craig, but the timing of everything was too perfect and it seemed like a sign from the universe that I needed to come back,” said Jeanie.
Some of Jeanie’s colleagues know her story, and she occasionally tells her patients if she feels it will help them. Not long after Jeanie began working at Craig, she walked in on patient who was talking to his wife. He was extremely frustrated that no one understood him, and he wasn't getting better. “I sat and talked to them for a long time,” says Jeanie. “His injury was very similar to mine and he was complaining about the helmet he had to wear because he hated it. I told him my story and expressed empathy for the annoying qualities of the stupid helmet. A few days later, his mother-in-law told me how my story gave him hope and he immediately relaxed and it turned his night, and the next week, around.”
Jeanie credits being a former Craig patient with humbling her as a nurse. “For all the combative, difficult, and sometimes hurtful patients I take care of, I remember that I was one of them and channel what I felt as a patient into patience with them,” she says. “I don't really feel like I chose Craig but rather it chose me.”