Through a historic storm and a global pandemic, this nurse embraces the true meaning of “Iowa nice”
Courtesy of CeraVe
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From the time she was a little girl, Abby Recker loved helping people. Her parents kept her stocked up with first-aid supplies so she could spend hours playing with her dolls, making up stories of ballet injuries and carefully wrapping “broken” arms and legs.

Recker fondly describes her hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a simple place where people are kind to one another. There’s even a term for it—“Iowa nice”—describing an overall sense of agreeableness and emotional trust shown by people who are otherwise strangers.

Abby | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Driven by passion and the encouragement of her parents, Recker attended nursing school, graduating just one year before the unthinkable happened: a global pandemic. One year into her career as an emergency and labor and delivery nurse, everything she thought she knew about the medical field got turned upside down. That period of time was tough on everyone, and Nurse Recker was no exception.


“You had patients that were here one minute and gone the next and the emotional impact took a toll, but we stuck together,” said Nurse Recker. She and her unit eventually found their footing and learned how to work as a team to adapt to the overwhelming influx of COVID-19 patients. Right as they got into a groove, on August 10, 2020, with nearly no time to prepare, a historic “derecho” storm hit the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Courtesy of CeraVe

A derecho packs fast-moving gusts, but instead of spiraling like a tornado or hurricane, the winds of a derecho move in straight lines. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the storm caused $7.5 billion in damage across South Dakota and Ohio, ranking it as the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history. Every single Cedar Rapids resident was impacted.

“During the spring we tend to have lots of storms, so we’re used to tornados and other types of bad weather, but nothing like a derecho. I don’t think anyone in Iowa had even heard of a derecho until that August day,” said Nurse Recker. “After the storm hit, we were all trying to figure out what had happened; we didn’t even know there was a name for a storm like that!”

Suddenly, the hospital was filled with people experiencing storm-related injuries. The emergency room was packed, as people who depend on electricity to run their oxygen tanks or dialysis machines were pouring in with nowhere else to go. Just as they had done when the pandemic hit several months before, Nurse Recker and her team pulled together, working back-to-back 12-hour shifts and running on adrenaline.

It occurred to Nurse Recker in the middle of this chaos that she might not have a home to go back to. Instead of panicking, she focused on the people in front of her, putting their immediate needs above her own. It wasn’t until she got into her car to leave the hospital that she took the time to absorb the devastation. A tree had fallen, narrowly missing her car, and was wedged under her front bumper. To this day, she still doesn’t understand how her vehicle wasn’t completely crushed.

This ability to persevere under extreme pressure is what makes nurses so amazing at what they do. CeraVe’s ongoing commitment to the nursing community seeks to recognize inspiring healthcare workers such as Nurse Recker through Heroes Behind the Masks Chapter 2: A Walk In Our Shoes, a campaign featuring inspiring nurses from across the nation.

“Nurses share in some of the most joyful moments of a patient’s life but are also witness to some of the toughest moments, which can be a taxing part of their jobs that often goes unrecognized,” said Jaclyn Marrone, vice president of marketing for CeraVe. “To express our sincerest gratitude, we’re honored—to provide a platform for these incredible stories to be told, inspiring both the nursing community and beyond.”

Nurse Recker says that while sometimes there are situations where there isn’t a good solution and there’s no way to predict the future, she feels good knowing that there are people who have her back.

“I am fortunate enough to work at a job I love and am passionate about. When you love what you do and get to see the positive impact you have on people, it’s hard to be negative. Looking at what I get to do for people each and every day and how I get to impact their lives in a positive way makes it all worth it,” said Nurse Recker. “We know when people are coming to the hospital they are not at their best but the most important thing we can do is just be kind. A smile and thank you go a long way.”

Follow along in the coming days for more uplifting stories brought to you by CeraVe.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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I almost didn't create this post this week.

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I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

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