It takes a special type of person to become a nurse. The job requires a combination of energy, empathy, clear mind, oftentimes a strong stomach, and a cheerful attitude. And while people typically think of nursing in a clinical setting, some nurses are driven to work with the people that feel forgotten by society.
Michelle Santizo is a street medicine nurse working in Los Angeles, California. For her, the field of street medicine requires providing lifesaving health services in unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortable environments, but is where she is most passionate about her work.
Nurse Santizo credits her parents for teaching her resilience, a necessary trait when providing care in places like tents, under bridges, in alleys, vehicles, at libraries, on the side of the freeway or even at a bus stop.
“Every corner of Los Angeles needs our services,” said Nurse Santizo. “It can be in a pristine, abandoned, trashed, or graffiti-filled neighborhood.”
Michelle | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com
Santizo prepares for the workday by loading her backpack with supplies before heading to a section of downtown L.A. known as “skid row” to care for her clients, who are typically people experiencing homelessness and living on the fringes of society without regular access to healthcare. As the child of immigrant parents, she experienced firsthand a lack of healthcare and basic necessities. Her mother fled from El Salvador as a young woman, arriving in the United States alone and without shelter.
“My mother told me that the only people that acknowledged her while sleeping outside on a bench [were the people going in and out of] the church that was across the street,” said Nurse Santizo. She said her mother instilled in her that there are many reasons why people are homeless and that each individual has their own story. “[She] taught me to never judge someone’s struggle … my mother’s inspiring upbringing taught me if you have the time to help the broken or disadvantaged, then take a moment to acknowledge or help in some positive way.”
Michelle and her mother on a beachCourtesy of Michelle Santizo
Growing up, Nurse Santizo watched her parents struggle to earn a living wage to keep up with the family’s needs. “My father worked nearly seven days of the week and my mother worked as much as she could in jobs like babysitting, cleaning homes or caregiving. Feeding our family was my parent’s main concern…healthcare and all the other important aspects of life became secondary or non-existent. My parents could barely make enough income to buy fresh fruit or vegetables,” she said.
The Santizo familyCourtesy of Michelle Santizo
That upbringing is what drove her to pursue a career in medicine, with the goal of giving back to underserved communities. “[Access to] medicine should not be determined based on your socioeconomic status. It should be a right for someone to seek healthcare when it is needed and important, especially for children and adolescents who will be the future of our generation,” said Nurse Santizo. She credits her lack of access to healthcare as a child for empowering her to keep pushing for change.
When the opportunity to practice street nursing arose, Santizo knew instinctively that it was the right fit. Every workday she has meaningful interactions, but one experience in particular had a lasting impression on her. She encountered a middle-aged man who had lost his job during the pandemic and was forced to live on the streets. Nurse Santizo approached, and he asked if she wouldn’t mind examining his feet. As she gently inspected the condition of his skin, she explained that he needed a thorough cleaning and a special ointment and offered to wash his feet and patch them up.
Courtesy of CeraVe
“This kind man stared right into my eyes and nearly cried, as he shared ‘no one has ever cared for me like this ever since I’ve been forced to live on the streets, nor has anyone ever acknowledged my existence,’” recalled Nurse Santizo. “I remember squatting on the side of the street while cars were driving by … my only mission was to devote that moment in time to servicing a person who needed my attention and love. As you can tell, I love what I do, and I could scrub feet for days when servicing the most vulnerable populations.”
According to the most recent report, approximately 580,466 people were experiencing homelessness in America in January 2020. Most were individuals (70%) and the rest were people living in families with children. The full effect of the pandemic on the homeless populations across the country have yet to become clear, and hard data will not be fully known until late 2022 or early 2023.
“Bringing medicine to people who are not able to seek medical assistance due to their inabilities whether it be homelessness, chronic illness, or mental health has always been my true calling … to serve the broken, the sick, the vulnerable and the ones who really need a second chance at life,” said Nurse Santizo, a reminder that no one knows what another human is battling.
To recognize the healthcare professionals that are so often giving to others before themselves, CeraVe seeks to spotlight those that go beyond the call of duty for their patients and communities. The brand is honoring nurses such as Santizo in the second iteration of a docuseries titled Heroes Behind the Masks Chapter 2: A Walk In Our Shoes.
Follow along in the coming days for more stories of heroism, kindness and love.
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A pelvic floor doctor from Boston, Massachusetts, has caused a stir by explaining that something we all thought was good for our health can cause real problems. In a video that has more than 5.8 million views on TikTok, Dr. Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas says we shouldn’t go pee “just in case.”
How could this be? The moment we all learned to control our bladders we were also taught to pee before going on a car trip, sitting down to watch a movie or playing sports.
The doctor posted the video as a response to TikTok user Sidneyraz, who made a video urging people to go to the bathroom whenever they get the chance. Sidneyraz is known for posting videos about things he didn’t learn until his 30s. "If you think to yourself, 'I don't have to go,' go." SidneyRaz says in the video. It sounds like common sense but evidently, he was totally wrong, just like the rest of humanity.
on vacation and remembering #vacation #tips #bathroom #travel #tipsandtricks #todayilearned #todayyearsold #islandlife #traumabrain #roadtrip #inmy30s
“Pelvic floor physical therapist here, and I work with a lot of people with overactive bladders, stress incontinence, urge incontinence, the whole nine yards,” Dr. Jeffrey-Thomas began her clip. “And here's why you shouldn't go ‘just in case."'
In the video, Dr. Jeffrey-Thomas explains the three levels of feeling the need to pee.
“The first one is just an awareness level that tells you that there's some urine in the bladder,” she said. “The second one is the one that tells you to make a plan to use the toilet, and the third is kind of the panic button that says, ‘Get me there right now, I'm about to overflow.’”
Then she made her case by giving a visual explanation of how going when we don’t need to teaches our bodies to prematurely send signals that it’s time to pee. The simple explanation has a lot of people wondering if their pee sensor is still working correctly.
#stitch with @sidneyraz I know it sounds counterintuitive and goes against everything your momma taught you - just out here trying to save your bladder 🤍
In a rare display of humility on the internet, Sidneyraz saw the video and thanked the doctor for the correction. "Oh hey thanks for correcting me!" he wrote.
The video shocked a lot of people who feel like their entire lives have been based on a lie—at least when it comes to something most of us do six to eight times a day. “TikTok is basically just a bunch of videos telling me I'm doing life wrong,” joked one commenter. “Like Jesus, really? I'm peeing wrong?”
Yes, you are.
"Who else hears their mom in their head say 'go just in case' when you’re out and about and near a bathroom?" another commenter asked.
The good news is that if you’ve always been the type to go “just in case” and you constantly feel like you need to go pee, there is hope. With the help of a doctor, you can retrain your bladder so that you only feel the need to go when it’s time. Now, who’s going to be the first brave person who doesn’t go when they feel the need, just to see if their body’s pee sensor is off?
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The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.
Nurse Ahn felt drawn to a career in healthcare partially because she grew up watching medical dramas on TV with her mother. While the fast-paced level of excitement seen on TV is what initially caught her interest, she quickly found out that real-life nursing is quite different from how it was portrayed on her favorite shows.
Courtesy of Elaine Ahn
The most striking difference, according to Ahn, is the level of involvement that nurses have with their patients during each 12-hour shift. Nurses are often the first to catch subtle signs and symptoms that provide insight into how a patient is doing emotionally as well as physically. Science tells us that emotional health and our overall attitudes have a direct impact on physical health and healing, and Nurse Ahn noticed early on that she could make a huge difference in her patient’s recovery, just by taking the time to sit down for a chat.
California is the only state in the country to require by law a specific number of nurses to patients in every hospital unit. It requires hospitals to provide one nurse for every two patients in intensive care and one nurse for every four patients in emergency rooms, for example. This regulation was created to increase positive outcomes for patients and prevent employee burnout. Even though she never has more than five patients to care for during a shift, Nurse Ahn, like many nurses,still feels stretched thin coping with the needs and demands of the day.
“Sometimes people just need to be heard. In the busy world of acute care, time can really be a luxury. With the number of tasks to perform and numerous alarms pulling nurses and aides in various directions, stretching us thin like pizza dough, it’s upsetting because it can get difficult to be able to spend as much time as we would like with our patients,” said Ahn.
“I remember one day having a patient and his family member being anxious and frustrated. In that moment, I found that drawing up a chair to sit at their eye level and giving them my full, undivided attention for however long I could truly went a long way. They later told me that it was the first time during their hospital stay that they felt heard without being rushed, and this experience led me to adopt this as a part of my practice,” said Ahn.
Nurse Ahn was assigned to a patient with terminal lung cancer, referred to in this series as “Grumpy Man.” Grumpy Man was dying, in constant pain and didn’t have any visitors. He was lonely and without hope, and it tugged at the nurse’s heartstrings.
Elaine | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com
She credits two of her mentors, Josh and Jess, with the idea of providing this patient with more TLC and this inspired her to implement the routine of having daily 15-minute chats with him.
“Especially upon learning that he had no friends or family members to visit or call him, I really wanted to be someone who was present with him in this very difficult time of his life. I wanted him to be able to have another human present and be engaged with him and for him to feel heard and cared for,” said Ahn.
Courtesy of Elaine Ahn
It’s no secret that nurses often put their own patients well-being above their own. That level of caring is what makes them so good at what they do, but it can also lead to exhaustion. Even though she thrives on the rush of being busy, caring for patients like Grumpy Man taught Nurse Ahn the importance of taking a moment to pause, center herself and prioritize taking care of herself first, so she has the energy to devote her undivided care and attention to her patients.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in the momentum of busy-ness, but I make the point to not rush myself and take things one thing at a time. To my delight, taking things one step at a time helped me complete things faster than rushing,” said Ahn.
To help care for the healthcare professionals that are so often giving to others before themselves, CeraVe seeks to spotlight those that go beyond the call of duty for their patients and communities in the Heroes Behind the Masks Chapter 2: A Walk In Our Shoes campaign. The goal of this year’s campaign is to showcase incredible nurses such as Nurse Ahn and celebrate the nursing community as a whole, recognizing the trials, emotional and physical toll the profession has while aiming to inspire and encourage them.
Follow along in the next few days for more stories of heroism here.
Spoiler alert: It's how she met her future husband!
"If Found Please Read" author and creator Madison White started her writing career with 50 handwritten journals and a plan to sneak them into book stores across the nation. She saved about $2,000 from her waitressing job and decided to cross the country on a Greyhound bus on her self-proclaimed book tour. What she didn't realize was that her life would change before this adventure ever really started.
Her journals include what Madison refers to as "ramblings." Unedited, unapologetic expressions of her life. In her writings, she tackles issues such as depression and what it was like to leave home, focusing on growing up and refusing to. She was going for raw, unedited and real.
At the start of each journal, Madison included her contact information in addition to a disclaimer and introduction to her work. She wrote that the first chapter may be hers, but that the second is the reader's—an open invitation for them to tell their own life story. The point of this mission was to connect with strangers.
A few days before her planned departure, she went to a show and afterwards chatted up one of the musicians, explaining her "If Found Please Read" project and the journey she was about to set out on. A luck would have it, his band was breaking up and he was looking for renewed inspiration with his music. He invited himself along on her tour to play in coffee shops and bars as they traveled. He also happened to drive a Toyota Scion—a step up from the Greyhound bus.
It’s just too much story! Part 3 after work and the kids go to sleep 😬 #itreallyhappenedthisway #iffoundpleaseread #streetlibraryproject #everyonehasastory #booktok #journal #story #guerillapublishing #storyforthegrankids
Madison couldn't refuse that sweet set of wheels, and together they traveled across the country, clocking up 18,000 miles in his car. Her new friend played in coffee shops and Madison snuck her journals into bookstores, and at night they'd lay down the back seats and sleep in truck stops and parking lots. The first of Madison's journals was found when they were passing through Portland. She received a text that read, "Is this real"?
Madison was jumping—someone had found her book. After back and forth texts, this complete stranger opened up to her saying how he related to Madison's leaving home early because he too left home when he was young: his parents didn't accept him coming out. Madison had embarked on this project as a way to connect with people and it had already proven to be a powerful tool.
As they continued traveling, Madison received more phone calls and texts, even meeting some of her perfect strangers in person. A total of 30 of her initial 50 journals were found and she deemed the trip a success. Oh yeah, and you may have guessed this already, but that musician who came on the road with her? Well they're now married and have been for several years.
But here's the really exciting thing: Madison's starting it back up. This time, she's on a mission to leave 1,000 handwritten journals for perfect strangers to find. You never know where they're going to turn up! Happy hunting.
It only costs them a little more than $30,000 a year.
Imagine retiring early and spending the rest of your life on a cruise ship visiting exotic locations, meeting interesting people and eating delectable food. It sounds fantastic, but surely it’s a billionaire’s fantasy, right?
Not according to Angelyn Burk, 53, and her husband Richard. They’re living their best life hopping from ship to ship for around $44 a night each. The Burks have called cruise ships their home since May 2021 and have no plans to go back to their lives as landlubbers. Angelyn took her first cruise in 1992 and it changed her goals in life forever.
“Our original plan was to stay in different countries for a month at a time and eventually retire to cruise ships as we got older,” Angelyn told 7 News. But a few years back, Angelyn crunched the numbers and realized they could start much sooner than expected.
“We love to travel and we were searching for a way to continuously travel in our retirement that made financial sense,” she said. They looked into deals they could find through loyalty memberships and then factored in the potential sale price of their home and realized their dream was totally affordable.
The rough math makes sense. If it costs the couple $88 per night to live on a cruise ship, that’s $32,120 a year. Currently, the average price of a home in Seattle, Washington—where the couple lived—is $958,027 which would come with a mortgage that costs around $50,000 a year.
Plus, on a cruise ship, the couple doesn’t have to pay for groceries.
The Burks are able to live their dream because they’ve spent a lifetime being responsible. “We have been frugal all our lives to save and invest in order to achieve our goal,” she says. “We are not into materialistic things but experiences.”
Angelyn says that cruising takes the stress out of travel. “It is leisurely travel without the complications of booking hotels, restaurants, and transportation while staying within our budget,” she told 7 News. The couple travels lightly with just two suitcases between them and if they need anything, they just buy it on the ship or in the next port.
One thing the carefree couple should be concerned about on their never-ending cruise is COVID-19. The coronavirus is easily spread in close quarters and a cruise ship that recently docked in Seattle had 100 people on board who tested positive for the virus. The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated before going on a cruise and that immunocompromised people should consult with their physicians before traveling.
Since leaving their jobs and the mainland behind, the Burks have been on a 50-day cruise around the Adriatic Sea, taking in the sights of Europe as well as a 51-day cruise from Seattle to Sydney, Australia.
The Burks really love cruising to Italy, Canada, Iceland and the Bahamas but their favorite is Singapore.
Looking to give it all up and go on a permanent vacation just like the Burks? Angelyn has some advice for those wanting to get started.
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