These 11 brave nurses remind us why we celebrate National Nurses Week.

Nurses don't get nearly enough credit for their awesomeness.

Sure, doctors stand above them in the hierarchy of medical work (and I guess they're OK too), but nurses are the ones out there on the front lines, the unsung heroes who do the dirty work without expectation of reward.

They're the ones who take care of us — by checking in at the start of the appointment or drawing blood then gently patching us up or encouraging us to drink down delicious apple juice (or whatever other weird but necessary hospital foods). They watch over us at school when we scrape our knees on the playground or fake a headache just to skip gym class.


And, more often than not, they're the ones who are called into action during times of crisis, like superheroes who just can't hang up their capes.

So in celebration of National Nurses Week, here are 11 extraordinary nurses who went above and beyond the call of duty.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

1. In Flint, Michigan, nurses are volunteering their time to give aid to people suffering from the contaminated water.

Veronica Robinson is just one of the many Flint-area nurses and student nurses who have selflessly sacrificed their time to draw and test children's blood and to educate parents on lead contamination, water treatment, and other preventative measures.

Image via wochit news/YouTube.

2. A retired New York nurse saved a man who had a heart attack on a Midtown street.

Claire O'Neill was 69 years old when she saw William Taylor collapse on 9th Avenue. She performed heart compressions until paramedics could arrive. Her act formed an eternal bond between the two as they entered their autumn ages — she even checked on him a few days later at the hospital.

Image via ABC7NY.

3. On her ride home from work, a Boston nurse saved a bus driver who was having a seizure.

Sarah Demers first noticed the bus was shaking … and then that it was drifting toward a pole. She rushed to the front where she found the driver in the middle of a seizure. Fortunately, she was able to step in and hit the brakes in time before getting the driver to a nearby hospital.

Boston Medical Center, where Demers had been working. Photo by Cmcnicoll/Wikimedia Commons.

4. Another nurse was enjoying a game of sudoku some 30,000 feet in the air when she was called to the aid of the pilot flying the plane.

Linda Alweiss was flying home to California from Iowa when the flight attendants made an announcement in search of a medical professional. When Alweiss offered her services, she didn't expect to be reviving a pilot in the middle of a heart attack. (Fortunately, the co-pilot knew how to keep the thing in the air.)

Image via NBC4 Los Angeles.

5. While vacationing in Thailand, a German cyclist collapsed on the side of the road until an off-duty nurse passed by in her car.

Several other cars had allegedly passed by, but none had noticed the man waving for help. Fortunately, Srikanya Cheuarop had been out on a trip with her family and was able to provide first aid until an ambulance could arrive.

Image via Khaosod TV/YouTube.

6. A nursing student was enjoying a night out at the theater when he ended up reviving a woman in the front row.

No sooner had Kristian Keyte settled into his seat at the Bristol Hippodrome to see the musical "The Bodyguard" than he noticed the distressed look on the woman's face in front of him. As it turned out, the woman's mother had suddenly stopping breathing. Keyte performed CPR and helped revive her until the medics arrived to take her to the hospital.

Image via ITV West County.

7. A travel nurse in San Diego ended up delivering a baby in the absence of a doctor … for someone who just so happened to work for her company.

Russ Waehler's wife went into labor a week before expected, but fortunately both of their concerns were calmed by a friendly travel nurse named Kim in the waiting room — who coincidentally worked for the same company as Waehler. When things progressed quickly and the doctor was unable to make it to the delivery room in time, Kim stepped up and handled the work in their stead.

Photo by Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images.

8. A nurse in London was interrupted in the middle of a relaxing pint at the pub when a stabbing victim stumbled through the doors.

The stabbing appeared to be unconnected to the pub itself, but that didn't stop Louise Williams from taking control of the situation. She ordered the bartender to fetch a bath towel, and urged another drinker to phone an ambulance as she tended to the bleeding — ultimately saving the man's life.

The pub where it happened. Photo by Ewan Munro/Flickr.

9. A London nurse assisted an elderly man — who himself had stepped in to help her just minutes before.

65-year-old Stephen Breed intervened when he saw nurse Polly Collins arguing with another man on the train. But when he disembarked at the next station, he collapsed in cardiac arrest ... and Collins took the chance to return the favor while the station attendants called the hospital.

Stephen, left, during his stay in the hospital, and Polly, right. Image via NNM News/YouTube.

10. A Michigan police officer who was training to become a nurse had an unexpected opportunity to employ both sets of skills at once.

Highland Park police officer Mitch Heaney was called to investigate a knife attack near a drug clinic and quickly realized the victim was going to die if he didn't act fast. Heaney used the nursing skills he'd been taught to stop the bleeding.

Image via ABC7 WXYZ.

11. During an Australian heat wave, an off-duty nurse rescued a 4-year-old child from a hot car.

Nurse Jess Hawkins had just finished her shift at Mt. Druitt Hospital in a Sydney suburb when she noticed the child in the parking lot with no shade for protection. She immediately alerted the hospital staff, and police arrived shortly after to smash the car windows and rescue the child from the heat.

Image via 7 News/Yahoo.

To these and all the other brilliant, selfless nurses in the world, we just want to say: Thank you.

And in case you're somehow still not feeling inspired, maybe this'll do the trick:

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt as I headed into the city on July 3, 2018. My pink hair was styled. I wore it up in a high ponytail, though I left two tendrils down. Two tendrils which framed my face. My makeup was done. I wore shadow on my eyes and blush on my cheeks, blush which gave me color. Which brought my pale complexion to life. And my confidence grew each time my heels clacked against the concrete.

My confidence grew with each and every step.

Why? Because I was a strong woman. A city woman. A woman headed to interview for her dream job.

I nailed the interview. Before I boarded the bus back home, I had an offer letter in my inbox. I was a news writer, with a salary and benefits, but a strange thing happened 13 months later. I quit said job in an instant. On a whim. I walked down Fifth Avenue and never looked back. And while there were a few reasons why I quit that warm, summer day: I was a new(ish) mom. A second-time mom, and I missed my children. Spending an hour with them each day just wasn't enough. My daughter was struggling in school. She needed oversight. Guidance. She needed my help. And my commute was rough. I couldn't cover the exorbitant cost of childcare. The real reason I quit was because my mental health was failing.


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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt as I headed into the city on July 3, 2018. My pink hair was styled. I wore it up in a high ponytail, though I left two tendrils down. Two tendrils which framed my face. My makeup was done. I wore shadow on my eyes and blush on my cheeks, blush which gave me color. Which brought my pale complexion to life. And my confidence grew each time my heels clacked against the concrete.

My confidence grew with each and every step.

Why? Because I was a strong woman. A city woman. A woman headed to interview for her dream job.

I nailed the interview. Before I boarded the bus back home, I had an offer letter in my inbox. I was a news writer, with a salary and benefits, but a strange thing happened 13 months later. I quit said job in an instant. On a whim. I walked down Fifth Avenue and never looked back. And while there were a few reasons why I quit that warm, summer day: I was a new(ish) mom. A second-time mom, and I missed my children. Spending an hour with them each day just wasn't enough. My daughter was struggling in school. She needed oversight. Guidance. She needed my help. And my commute was rough. I couldn't cover the exorbitant cost of childcare. The real reason I quit was because my mental health was failing.


Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."