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VNA Care Nurse Specialist Helps Patient Overcome Five-year Health Crisis 

Patsy Juliano gets a bit misty-eyed when she talks about Carol Jones, RN, BSN, CWOCN.

“She worked a miracle for me,” said Patsy.

Her health crisis began five years ago. Complications during surgery led to sepsis, the body’s overwhelming response to infection that can be fatal. Patsy was on life support multiple times during her two-month hospitalization.

When she was finally well enough to return home, Patsy faced further challenges. She kept getting infections that caused fluid to build up in her abdomen. Doctors put in drains to remove the fluid, but it was difficult keeping the drainage bags in place. Patsy also developed a gastrointestinal fistula, an abnormal opening in the digestive tract, that contributed to the infections. In the coming years, Patsy had multiple stays in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities.

“It was a nightmare,” shared Patsy. “I’m a very active person, and I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t do anything.”

Patsy was referred to VNA Care for nursing support in managing her condition. VNA Care’s specialists include certified wound, ostomy, and continence nurses (CWOCN) who serve as resources for both patients and other clinicians. Carol oversees the CWOCN team, and began working with Patsy to improve her health and quality of life.

“Carol’s whole attitude towards healing is unbelievable. Other people told me that this is just what I have to live with, but Carol was going to find a way to make it better. If there’s anything in her power to help you, she’s going to do it,” said Patsy.

Carol found a way to keep the drainage bags in place so Patsy could be more active. She taught Patsy about making changes to her diet that would promote healing, and supported Patsy’s sons in their role as caregivers.

When Patsy’s spirits were down, Carol listened and offered support. She encouraged Patsy to set a goal for what she’d like to do when her health improved. Patsy always loved driving down to visit friends in Alabama, where she grew up, and yearly trips to Florida with her sons. She set her sights on another road trip with her little dog Lilly by her side.

“That goal helped me through a lot,” said Patsy.

Carol empowered Patsy to have an open conversation with her surgeon about her quality of life. Although another operation brought significant risks, Patsy and her doctor decided to move forward with one more surgery last January. Patsy had a colostomy, a procedure that creates an opening in the abdomen for waste to leave the body. The surgery left her with only one bag to manage, and the promise of getting back to a normal life.

Carol and VNA Care’s home health care team continued visiting Patsy after her surgery. When the pandemic hit Massachusetts, the team worked closely with Patsy’s doctor to help her remain safe at home and reduce her risk for the getting the virus.

Patsy had one stubborn wound that wouldn’t heal with the prescribed topical approach to treatment. Carol suggested to Patsy and her doctor that they instead try a wound VAC, a device that provides negative pressure that promotes wound healing. Within three weeks, the last of Patsy’s wounds had healed.

Patsy said she’s grateful to have spent these past months without any new infections and having her health back under control.

“I’m a very fortunate woman. Carol came into my life when I needed her, and she got me to a better place,” said Patsy. “I can’t say enough about Carol or VNA Care.”

Pictured: Carol Jones, RN, BSN, CWOCN, (left) and Patsy Juliano. This article first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Caring Matters.

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