Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A change in perspective: Nursing grad chronicles her journey from caregiver to patient



You can make it through hell and back. And Meagan Doumont is living proof.

The Douglas College Nursing grad has survived two devastating incidents that hit her back-to-back in a few short weeks, but she’s not giving up on her dream to help others.

On Aug. 3, one day after passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), the self-described go-getter was involved in a collision with a semi-truck that drove her off the road and landed her in the hospital. The accident forced the neonatal nurse to take a month off from her dream job at B.C. Women’s Hospital to recover, both physically and mentally.

“I was four days into working by myself in NICU and then I wasn’t able to work. I couldn’t even dress myself, I was in so much pain,” Doumont said.

During that time off, the 30-year-old received a call that a long-awaited MRI to investigate hearing loss in one ear was to be scheduled. The hearing loss had been persisting for one year, but Doumont was positive nothing would come of it. She was a nurse, after all. Being a patient, she said, felt foreign to her.

“When the MRI was complete, the lady working was white as a ghost. In that moment, I knew that she saw something. I got in my car and cried the whole way home,” Doumont recalled. “Then I received the call asking me to come in and see the doctor immediately, and I just started freaking out. I knew it wasn’t good.”

On Sept. 8, 2016, at 10:15am, Doumont was told that she had a non-malignant, slow-growing brain tumour that was the size of a golf ball.

“I was basically in shock for three weeks. But I ended up having to go back to work two days after being diagnosed and I was in a weird spot. It wasn’t safe for me to be there. So, for the first time in my life, I was forced to slow down and take medical leave,” she said.

After learning her tumour was just slightly too large for radiation by a mere two percent, Doumont again steeled herself for another hurdle: a sub-occipital craniotomy at Vancouver General Hospital. With only one set of doctors in the entire province available to do the surgery, Doumont was told it would take six weeks before she would see a specialist, and another two for the neurosurgeon.

“There is nothing worse than being told you have a brain tumor and having to wait to talk to the person who is going to fix it. I literally thought I was going insane,” Doumont recalled. “A single day did not go by without an outburst of tears.”

As a way to cope with all that was going on, Doumont turned to writing. She created a blog, where she chronicled each step of her road to surgery and recovery.

The blog was not only a way to help her navigate the changes that were unfolding her life, but a way to reach out to others going through similar experiences.

“I still had this need to help others. And since I couldn’t do that physically, this was the way I was going to do it,” she said.

Everything that Doumont thought of – whether it was the fear or losing her ability to smile due to facial paralysis after surgery to the anger of being knocked off the path that she had worked so hard to get to – is chronicled in the blog.

And then finally, the day came.

On Feb. 14, Doumont underwent her surgery. The 10-hour-long procedure removed the tumour from her brain, but left her with some new obstacles – hearing loss in one ear and balance issues.

“Let me tell you, you do not realize the importance of your vestibular system until you don’t have it any more,” Doumont writes in her blog.

And, if this experience has proven anything, it’s that nothing can keep Doumont down. In fact, she is already looking forward to a speaking engagement at Douglas College. Invited by one of her BSN instructors, Doumont will talk about her journey firsthand on Nov. 27.

“If you are going through hell, keep going. Even if all you do today is breathe, tomorrow is another day that will be closer to the end of your storm. Be gentle with yourself and accept the help that is offered,” Doumont said.