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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1442665-Ability-Not-Disability
Rated: E · Article · Career · #1442665
Gulf Breeze NP doesn't let MS curb her pursuit of professional goals

Kimberly Womack is an emergency medicine NP, a critical care educator, a first responder, has been a military nurse and owns her own cooking school. This does not sound like the busy routine of a person with multiple sclerosis, but Womack, MS, ARNP, CEN, a resident of Gulf Breeze, has been living with MS for 4 years.

"Life is not a dress rehearsal, this is the real deal and you have to make the best of every day that you have," she told ADVANCE. "MS is my cards; I've been dealt this deck. Everyone has their own deck."

The Diagnosis
Oct. 24, 2002, is a date Womack will never forget — it's the day she learned she had MS. Earlier, after experiencing numbness in her extremities, an NP suggested Womack see a neurologist. She did and had an MRI and lab work done. Examining the results, the neurologist surmised the numbness was due to MS.

Womack experienced a range of emotions upon receiving the news. "That first week or first couple of days is so hard — because you are in denial," she recalled.
After her diagnosis, she relied upon the support of her family, close friends and church community.

Treatment began almost immediately at the Naval Hospital in Pensacola. Womack did not go into detail, but said initial treatment failed. Then she tried Rebif, one of four approved MS treatment drugs. It slowed the progression of MS and reduced the frequency of relapses, enabling her to continue enjoying hobbies such as gardening and cooking. However, she has made lifestyle concessions due to her condition. When she began tripping over her left toe due to numbness, her running career ceased.

Quitting jogging was only one adjustment she had to make. Womack's biggest challenge in coping with MS is twofold: she had to accept that she "wasn't perfect anymore," and would no longer be a part of the Air Force where she served as a reserve flight nurse on a C-130 aircraft.

However, she never dwelled upon her situation. "You don't have to go into a closet and sit in a wheelchair because you have MS," said Womack, who still enjoys being an NP in the ED of the Baptist Trauma Center in both Pensacola and Gulf Breeze.

A Call to Contribute
Womack is actively involved with helping others less fortunate than herself.
She and her husband frequently volunteer at their local church. After Hurricane Ivan, their church community aided 18,000 people through their disaster recovery center.

In addition, Womack, a mother of two, serves as an ambassador to MS LifeLines, an organization devoted to educating others about MS. As an ambassador, she travels around the nation speaking to patient groups, nurses and doctors about MS and the treatment options available. She is particularly inspirational to those with MS in that she can offer scientific data and her personal story. "I can talk as a nurse and I can talk as a patient," she said. "People, I think, respond to that. The positive attitude part of it gives people hope."

{b]Past & Future
Despite all her activities and community involvement, Womack manages to find time to attend school. Continuing her education is crucial to being a successful nurse, she says. "To be a really good nurse these days, you have to continue to study."

She received both her associate and bachelor's degrees in nursing and is pursuing her doctorate in health sciences with an emphasis on reconstructive surgery from Nova Southeastern University. She also has been a faculty member at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Her thorough background in nursing has been a source of relief in dealing with MS.

Approaching MS from a nurse's perspective has provided Womack with some comfort. As a nurse, Womack understands MS from a clinical standpoint. Her knowledge of physiology and chemistry served as an advantage: She knew she would not die from MS, and she understood what measures to take to pursue her own professional goals as a nurse. In addition, through being a patient herself, Womack can empathize with her patients and care for them more effectively.

Journey to Ireland
Growing up in an Irish-American family, Womack always wanted to travel to Ireland. Recently, She and her husband Scottie traveled to Ireland to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Their trip stimulated Womack's unquenchable thirst for knowledge; she plans to return to Ireland to study and teach.

"As far as the future goes, after I finish my doctorate, I'm probably going to go back to Ireland and attend one of the major colleges there and do some internship as well. I want to stay in emergency services as long as I can and I probably will."
She continues to encourage others to enter nursing, although they may have obstacles like MS. "The world's not going to make it without great nurses," she said.

© Copyright 2008 JennyMSweeney (jennymsweeney at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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