Finding Purpose in Heart Transplants

Jeremiah B.

After his grandfather had a massive stroke and heart attack, Jeremiah B. got to experience, firsthand, the care the nurses provided. The traumatic event inspired Jeremiah’s love for healthcare.

“The nurses were open, honest, and authentic,” he said. “I saw a lot that I appreciated in those individuals. It opened my eyes to the profession.”

Today, Jeremiah works as an assistant nurse manager for the Float Pool and Rapid Response Team. He also teaches at his alma mater, West Coast University in Ontario.

During his college years, Jeremiah studied to become a physician. His plans changed when he learned his partner was pregnant with their first son, leading him to start working in advertising. When the economy slowed, however, Jeremiah reconsidered a career in medicine.

With a growing family, Jeremiah believed that nursing aligned better with his lifelong aspirations.

“I knew nursing would be a great path with a flexible schedule,” he said. “That sense of purpose brought me back into healthcare.”

At the time, Jeremiah’s wife had a full-time job while he worked part-time and attended nursing school. The evening classes at WCU allowed them to take turns watching their young children. Jeremiah also appreciated the focus on providing an exceptional student experience.

“Every nurse knows how stressful nursing school is, but I felt the faculty and associates were emotionally supportive,” Jeremiah said. “I would reach out and say, ‘I am having a bad day,’ and the staff would always be there to listen and offer that therapeutic ear saying, ‘Today is a rough day, but tomorrow will be better.'”

Jeremiah completed his clinical rotations at St. Bernadine’s Medical Center, where he worked with patients dealing with heart vessel damage and coronary artery diseases. During his time there, he gained valuable experience in advanced therapies and procedures, including coronary artery bypass surgery.

“The patient population was amazing to me,” Jeremiah said. “These people had their entire chests opened up 24 hours ago, and a day or two later, we were getting them up and walking them around the whole hospital.”

Working with cardiac patients reminded Jeremiah of his grandfather’s experience with heart failure.

“I was fascinated by this opportunity to learn about this patient population,” he said. “I wanted to know what their quality of life was, and how we can improve those outcomes. When you talk about a transplant, it’s a bittersweet process because someone has to die, so another has life.”

Jeremiah recalled a time he delivered the news to a patient that he would be receiving a heart transplant. The patient was so happy, as he could now attend his daughter’s wedding.

“I sat and cried with him,” Jeremiah said. “To give him that news, you feel like you’ve made a difference in your community.”

After many years in nursing, Jeremiah values the guidance he received along the way. He tries to offer new nurses what he experienced early in his career.

“I always appreciated that gift of mentorship, and I still use what they taught me as I develop in my career,” he said. “Having someone advocate for you, give you safe advice when you need it, and be that sounding board offers the continuous learning we need in nursing and helps build relationships and advance careers.”

WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.