“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney
Upon moving back to New Orleans, I immediately jumped into nursing, brought a house on the Westbank in Algiers and most importantly married my supportive college sweetheart, Tommy.
I had just begun to adjust to my new vision baseline when my biggest MS enemy started to appear. Fatigue was my new nemesis. After a few months, it was so strong I knew my ICU nursing career would have to end. I was visibly captured in fatigue and it was slowly becoming noticeable to colleagues and supervisors. Worst of all, I was coming close to putting myself in positions where patients could have been hurt. So due to the inherent stress of the ICU and the fatigue of shift work, I opted to slow things down a bit.
I chose to become a more mainstream nurse in a 9 to 5 cardiology clinic. For a year I collaborated with physicians regarding appropriate pacemaker follow up care, performed individualized focal cardiac assessment and intervened upon problematic health care behaviors in order to prevent heart failure hospitalizations.
I know, sounds exciting right? Well, it was even more boring than it sounds. I did learn a lot and actually was very good at my job but my whole time working there I was wishing I was doing something else.
I would work with medical sales specialist from different companies almost everyday. I began to watch what they were doing and started to study their patterns and movements. I became friendly with a couple of them and finally after about a month I asked one guy how he got his job. He looked surprised that I asked but he was very willing to give me some insight. He told me that it was a very specialized position but with my background in nursing a transfer into the job shouldn’t be hard. And once I told him I had a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, he assured me that I was more than qualified for the position. The only catch was, I would need to get a Cardiac Device Technology Certificate. To get one I needed to attend the Arrhythmia Technologies Institute in Greenville, South Carolina.
As we continued to talk I kept a smile on my face but inside I was sad because the last thing I wanted to do was go back to school. Tommy worked part-time jobs and had side hustles to bring in money and we had just purchased a house. I didn’t think I had the patience and I knew we didn’t have the money. My new dream was dead.
Over the next couple of weeks my new cardiac device friend began to show me more of what his job entailed. He also gave me additional information about the school and started to encourage me to attend. My interest was peeked again but I just didn’t know how to bring it up to my husband, Tommy. I would have to quit my job and move to Greenville, South Carolina for 8 months. I finally mentioned my dilemma to my friend and he invited us to dinner with him and his wife so he could explain the benefits of the position. I told him I had to talk to Tommy and I would get back with him.
On my drive home I prepared a speech in hopes of convincing Tommy to agree to my newest plan. I pulled the car into the driveway and sat there for a minute. I took a deep breath, exited the car and went into the house. As soon as I opened the front door I saw Tommy sitting on the couch watching ESPN. Before he could say anything I told him, “We need to talk.”
In an instant, his face went from a smile to a grimace because that phrase was always a clue that something was wrong. I sat next to him, looked in his eyes and immediately forgot what I wanted to say. The only thing I could think of was to tell him that a colleague had offered to take us to dinner. The smile quickly came back to his face and as my memory came back I saw my opportunity to present my proposal. I leaned back and began to layout my entire plan.
He intently listened and never interrupted me. When I was finished he said, “Let’s give it a shot.” I was stunned. I gave him a big hug and began to tell him about the dinner plans.
My friend was paying for the dinner at any restaurant of our choice. We really couldn’t afford to eat out that much so our restaurant references were limited and we were not sure what he meant by any restaurant of our choice. We decided on Chili’s. I called my friend and he couldn’t believe that’s where we wanted to eat. He ended up recommending Morton’s The Steakhouse and we agreed to meet the next week on Thursday at 7 PM.
When the day of the dinner came, I was so excited. I put on my new dress I had just brought from TJ Maxx and we headed to downtown New Orleans. This was by far the most expensive restaurant Tommy and I had ever eaten at. When we arrived my friend and his wife were waiting for us at the bar. We introduced ourselves and began the night with some small talk and drinks. After about ten minutes our table was ready and we entered the dining area. Within one minute of sitting down my friend and his wife began describing how fabulous their lives were. His wife also worked for the same medical device company. During our discussion they held nothing back. It was almost crass how they talked about the money they had. He drove a BMW and she drove a Jaguar. They made a combined $350,000 per year not including per diem and stock in the company. We learned all of this before we ordered dinner.
Speaking of dinner, half of the menu didn’t even display prices. I wasn’t sure what to order and when I looked at Tommy’s face I could tell he was just as confused as me. My friend ordered appetizers for the table, a cocktail, lobster, and filet mignon as his entrée. He then reminded Tommy to order whatever he wanted. Tommy safely ordered a chicken dish and I followed his lead. Like me, he was thinking that chicken had to be the least expensive thing on the menu. My friend’s wife ordered steak, lobster, jumbo lump crab cake and another cocktail.
As we waited for our meal, the conversation went back to money. Like I said, it seemed like they were bragging a lot about their salaries but it did give me an insight into working in that particular field. They made it seemed like I would be stupid not to take advantage of this opportunity. And after dinner, as we ordered our $20 desserts, I began to believe the hype.
We ended the night with my friend paying the nearly $400 bill and him once again saying that this would be such a great opportunity for us.
As we headed home, I asked Tommy if he thought we should do it. He said he thought it would be tough but he really couldn’t think why we shouldn’t do it. He told me what convince him was when my friend said, “If you work for this company you are guaranteed to retire a millionaire.”
We went home and began to make plans on applying to ATI School in South Carolina. After I applied, I had to wait to find out if I would be accepted. My friend wrote me a reference and surprisingly so did the doctor I was working for. It took a few months but I was accepted into the eight-month program that ran from September to May. We had very little money and I had to get a loan to pay the $20,000 tuition, which was due upon acceptance. I also got a roommate to save money on room and board.
The hardest thing was to leave my husband behind. We were married for only five months and now we would be separated for 8 months. We packed up all my stuff and drove 9 hours to Greenville. Tommy stayed the night but had to leave the next day. I cried like a baby when he left me to drive back to New Orleans.
As each day passed, I couldn’t help but wonder how things were going in New Orleans. We didn’t have much money but somehow the bills got paid. I talked to Tommy every other day on the phone and he always assured me that everything was being taken care of. He worked at the House of Blues and I know with just his salary he couldn’t cover all our bills. But surprisingly our mortgage was never late. I never asked him how he did it because I think I really didn’t want to know.
After 8 months at Arrhythmia Technologies Institute (ATI) I graduated! The best part was I really didn’t experience many MS symptoms when I was there. I had gotten use to my new visual field and learned to manage my fatigue. Most of the time I felt normal. It was almost as if I didn’t have MS anymore.
As soon as I graduated, the job hunt began. At the time, there were three main companies recruiting cardiac device technology specialist. Everyone I graduated with were all fighting for the same positions. I returned to New Orleans and watched as one after another of my classmates were hired. After about three weeks I knew I couldn’t stay without a job for too much longer. Then I got an interview with the number one selling company in the field. The interview culminated into a job offer in Washington DC.
When I told Tommy, you should have seen his face. He looked so happy.
We sold our house, packed our bags and headed to Washington DC.