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Henry Street Story Contest Winner

Congratulations to ​​Cynthia Robbins, winner of the MacGill Henry Street Stories contest and the Nurse Mates® Ultimate Signature Traveler prize.

After launching our November contest, stories poured in, stories like Cynthia’s (below) and like those featured in our Laughter on Henry Street post. We are grateful for all these wonderful, inspiring stories and for the opportunity to offer connection within the school nurse community.

“A Long Way from Henry Street” is a two-volume collection of stories written by school nurses and published in 2003 and 2012. The series gets its name from the Henry Street Settlement, a humanitarian organization that funded the first school nurse in 1902. For a free copy of volume 2, add item #72012 to your next order. More stories are featured on our blog.

For more information about sharing your stories, story ideas, and upcoming contests, see the end of this blog post.


The Power of A School Nurse’s Radar and Persistence

We observe more than kids realize. We see the kids with chronic illness. Kids with shattered homes. We see the ones who have to work a little harder and the ones who sail by carelessly.

As we observe, we are constantly assessing. Little coughs, sneezes, bathroom accidents. Frequent fliers. And kids who fall under the radar. Kids with potentially serious conditions that may go unnoticed.

One such child comes to mind.

Very early in my school career, I spotted a little fella in our middle school area who was so small I thought he’d wandered over from the elementary school part of the building. Before I could go help this lost child, a fellow teacher caught my attention and whispered, "It’s ok. He is in middle school."

I scoured his record for a diagnosis, an explanation for his exceptionally small size. I found multiple notes from his mother within his records: "Yes. He is small. His pediatrician says he is fine.'' I continued to keep an eye on him. His toddler's hands reached out to taunting friends. His big smile and infectious laughter filled the halls. His small feet scuttled along to class.

I called his mom to discuss his small stature. She responded with a well-prepared reply: "the pediatrician says he is just small, and he is fine.'' Sighing, I suggested that maybe a second glance wouldn't hurt, but she was reluctant as she had known the well-respected pediatrician for many years. She agreed she would reconsider if he started having any problems.

Months later, the young boy entered the clinic nearly in tears and complaining of a headache. He said he had been having headaches for a while. While I was sorry he was in pain, I appreciated this long-awaited opportunity to push for a more extensive workup and chance to help him grow.

I reevaluated the situation before contacting his mom. While this middle schooler was about the size of an average kindergartener, it was the other features that were more concerning: his soft, childish voice; the lack of maturity of his face; his toddler sized-hands and feet; his short and stubby legs; and his short torso. He was not just petite: he was not maturing.

I asked his mother to come to the clinic to have a frank discussion. When she arrived, rather than bringing up his size, I addressed his lack of maturation.

She gasped. It was the first time she noticed that he was not maturing.

I made a checklist of tests they might want to do, including growth hormones, a CBC for anemias, and an MRI for headaches. When she expressed concern that their pediatrician might not be willing to run the tests, I encouraged her to push, and I offered the support of alternative pediatric options should she need them.

The pediatrician, angry and offended, called me later that day, boasting of his medical school accolades and years in a successful practice. I explained that I advocate for my patient. I told him I would hand-deliver a formal letter of apology to him if he ran the tests and proved there is no growth issue.

Three days later, my little student missed school to get his MRI. His mom arrived at school soon after and, crying, explained to me that her son was diagnosed with a tumor and was being sent to St. Jude’s. Even with all the fear and worry, she came by to thank me and update me, and I offered all the reassurance I could.

After days of testing, we learned that he had a slow-growing pituitary tumor that had been present since birth. Because of the tumor, his pituitary gland was not able to produce the hormones needed for growth and maturation. Soon he started a long period of many tests, surgeries, and extensive hormone therapies. And he fought long battles with diabetes, insipidus, and adrenocortical insufficiency.

Years later, he is living his best life. With proper treatment and care, he should live a full, happy, mature life. He is an advocate for cures. He is remarkable. Best of all, he will grow up.

This is why we do School Nursing.



We are grateful to Cynthia Robbins for this inspiring, touching story and to all of our Henry Street contributors.

Watch our blog and social media or subscribe to our emails for news on upcoming Henry Street contests. Submit stories to stories@macgill.com. For story inspiration, visit our November contest blog post.

The promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media or marketing platform.


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