I always wanted to serve my country. I tried to enlist in the Air Force but juggling being a nurse with three kids, it wasn’t in the cards. But service pulled at my heartstrings: when I saw my nephew join the Army Infantry and serve four years in Afghanistan and Iraq, I wondered, again, about my calling.
It wasn’t until the pandemonium that ensued with Covid in March 2020 that my world shifted and I discovered a new path to service. When the pandemic struck, I, along with my healthcare colleagues, were thrown into a chaotic scramble to transition to telehealth. In the midst of all the heartbreak and rapid healthcare pivots, I started to reflect on my work-life balance. Family and personal health became greater priorities as I spent more time at home with my children. Gratefully, a new job opportunity presented itself at the Dallas Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. The new environment proved to be an inspirational one: finally, my chance to serve by caring for those who had been on the front lines serving our country.
Every day, I am humbled to be serving veterans, to take care of those who were willing to give their lives to protect us. It is very rewarding. Working with veterans impacted by Parkinson’s and other movement disorders, I’ve learned that the VA has so many available resources; sometimes, it’s just a matter of who knows these resources exist and who has access to them. Personally, I am most passionately focused on palliative care. To best serve our veterans with PD, I believe we need to explore palliative care as an option even early in treatment and we need to employ screening tools to increase access to this care.
As we prepare to celebrate Veteran’s Day, I want to thank veterans for their sacrifices. I see more and more Vietnam War-era veterans coming to the VA with Parkinson’s diagnoses. The effects of Agent Orange, so widely used during the war, are showing their harmfulness several decades later. Parkinsonism has now been identified as a service-connected condition related to Agent Orange. I seek to continue to provide the highest quality of care and support for these men and women who have given so much.