IT WAS A MEMORY OF THAT MOMENT — HER FINAL SURGERY AND THE NURSE HANDED HER A CHOCOLATE KISS. BRENDA RECALLS THAT MOMENT WITH A BIG SMILE BECAUSE THAT MEMORY IS WHAT SHAPED BRENDA’S DESIRE TO BECOME A NURSE.
Brenda Garay had a long journey through the healthcare system. At the age of six, she was diagnosed with chronic otitis media — an infection from inflammation in the middle ear which causes hearing loss in children. This condition required annual ear surgeries for 11 years and continuous speech pathology therapy session — in two languages — for nine years.
Raised by her father, a single parent who only spoke Spanish, Brenda was also challenged by a division in culture and language, as Brenda had to translate for him when they spoke to the nurses and doctors. This kept her father from consenting on some of her treatment and from an early age she became much more responsible for her own health than one should expect from a child.
Despite her health challenges, Brenda excelled in school and never missed a day. Her father had instilled in her the importance of education and taught her that it is the only way out of the cycle of poverty. She graduated at the top of her grammar school class. After excelling through grammar school her father decided to enroll her in magnet school for junior and senior high school and ultimately was given a college scholarship for her academic achievements.
As the first person in her family to attend college, she thought her only options were to “be a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher.” Because of her healthcare experiences, she got involved in Chicanos/Latinos for Community Medicine (CCM), a healthcare organization at UCLA. As part of the CCM, she volunteered to teach high school students about healthcare-related topics and volunteered at health fairs in Tecate, Mexico and within the greater Los Angeles area.
Finishing her first year in school, Brenda was beginning to realize that she had a true passion for caring and wanted to be more focused on a holistic view of caring for patients. Through a volunteer program at Santa Monica Hospital, she saw firsthand the roles that different healthcare providers played. She reflected on that moment that nurse gave her the Hershey’s kiss and decided to change direction.
“Even though I couldn’t eat the Kiss at that moment, it was her sentiment towards me and making me feel comfortable that really helped because you are a nervous wreck every time you go into the operating room,” added Brenda.
“SHE’S IN NURSING FOR THE RIGHT REASON — THE COMPASSION. SHE HAS AN EXCELLENT BEDSIDE MANNER AND THE PATIENTS LOVE HER. ”
Silvia Mieure, Lecturer, Prelicensure Programs
In order to focus on her nursing goal, she decided to switch to a Spanish major. She finished her required classes within a year and then focused on the courses required for nursing school.
At first her father was disappointed that his daughter wasn’t going to be a doctor but now he’s very proud, she said, “because he could see my heart. That I want to spend more time with my patients to focus on their holistic healing.”
Brenda is now in her second year in the Master’s Entry Clinical Nurse program. Her teacher’s and clinical liaison’s have noticed and commented on her great rapport with patients.
Long term, Brenda wants to focus on international health. Last summer she went with FIMRC – the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children — to India and she’s currently working on getting a global health certificate. She’s also planning to go to Cuba this winter with the School of Nursing.
Brenda thinks that it was her experiences that will ultimately make her a great nurse. “Because of my experiences, I have an ability to make stressful situations a little easier for patients. I’m able to empathize with patients because I’ve been down the road before, I know how it feels to be on the other side of the hospital bed.”