Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Healer

"My dream is to become the nurse that I want my family and loved ones to have"!

Call me Nurse Emma”! The radiant smile, the diploma in Nursing and the kind, beautiful blue eyes are not enough for me to detail the importance of this moment. I feel privileged that I am part of it. It’s impossible not to love Emma: she has the biggest heart and she is always there to offer a hand, always smiling, always compassionate and optimistic, despite life’s many turns.
As a young woman coming out of school, Emma trained hard and joined the Navy when she was only 21. She worked hard preparing for deployments, doing active service in countries at the opposite end of the world. One her most special memories is being part of the ANZAC Ceremony in Jordan.
Train how you fight, fight how you train” – it’s how her generation was taught. She remembers a particular moment when her training kicked in, while tasked to find a merchant ship crew member in the red sea.
After a 6 month deployment in the Middle East, Emma was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, at only 24. She remembers that time as a particularly hectic year and she considers herself fortunate that she had her mother’s support during this trying time. “Wherever mum and my birds are, that is home to me”.
She is also grateful for the special bond she shares with her Navy fellows, remembering how the sailors from HMAS Harman drove her to and fro, between her home and the hospital to receive treatment. “I didn’t know any of them, but the true Navy spirit prevailed. The hospital contacted the department and then they all organised the transport”.
Emma has been 4 years in the clear now and she is looking forward to next year, when she will be considered effectively cured and she will able to donate blood – something she always wanted to do, to help those in need.

The career switch from Able Seaman to Nurse doesn’t come as a surprise for anyone who really knows Emma. “As a little kid, ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a vet. Coming out of high school, I wanted to be a nurse. I have always felt a sense of duty or service - whether it be to my community or country. Nursing is very similar to Navy, in many ways: one works in shifts at the oddest hours, you always have to think on your feet, always being part of a team that has to keep everyone’s best interests at heart. Human medicine is so interesting. And as a nurse, I feel that I am in a rare and very privileged position – you look after a person when they are at their most vulnerable moments and you are there to help them. I remember that during one of my placements, a gentleman asked me – How do you cure depression? – He was upset about dying. It was a simple question with a complex answer and it affected me a lot; I wanted to do more for him. I couldn’t cure his depression and being a student I couldn’t do much. But I could talk to him. And I mentioned his feelings in his clinical notes, in order to get him the support he needed. We discovered a common bond too – he was an ex-Navy man too.

To Emma, life is about being selfless. This reflects not only in her career choices but also in her involvement with the wildlife rescue. There is no greater joy for her than when she is successful in rescuing animals in distress and then releasing them again in their habitat. I was lucky enough to even witness one of the rescues, when a Galah bird was trapped inside the front side of a car.
Some days are sad, like when she had to attend to 2 cockatoos – none of them made it. But some others are filled with immense delight, at the sight of the rescued little critters thriving while in her care. “Take Arlo, for example. He was really lucky. He is so little; it really was his lucky day. He got bitten by a dog – his skull and the bottom jaw were perforated – it’s a wonder he is still alive. But he has recovered really well. I have been able to successfully release him recently. I first had to wait for him to have a successful shed, to make sure there were no complications and that he was ready to be released in the wildlife”.

I asked Emma if – hypothetically – she had those 15 minutes of fame, how would she use it?  She didn’t hesitate for a second: “– I don’t like fame, but I think I'd advocate for flying foxes. I’d try and show the world that they're not disease-ridden vermin but incredibly smart animals that are key components of our environment.”

In her childhood, Emma looked up to Hayley Lewis as her role model - this was at around the time of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. Nowadays, she doesn’t have a specific role model – she gets inspired daily by the people around her: “I use bits and pieces of people who I admire and aspire to be like them".

There were times when Emma doubted herself and had a sense of failure for having to hit 'restart' on her career and moving home again. But every way I look at it, I see a winner and a role model for people of her generation. A very capable young woman, determined to follow all her dreams.  She has recently started to work as an Enrolled Nurse and I am sure that this is just the beginning of a great career.

“My biggest dream is to become the nurse that I want my family and loved ones to have: confident in my abilities, compassionate, professional, highly skilled, an advocate for my patients”.
I also want to further my scuba diving experience and become a dive master. I want to marry and have kids. I dream of a nice property where I can look after and rehabilitate critters. Where do i see myself in 5 years? I'd love to keep being a nurse (whether it's EN or RN), I'd love to become a dive master, continue doing wildlife rescue/rehab whether it be in Canberra or elsewhere.  I’d also LOVE to find Mr. Awesome and somehow I’d like to become an advocate for young adults going through cancer”.



  1. What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing it Akka and Emma!

    1. Thank you, Elias. Emma is very modest but I think she is a great inspiration not only for her own generation, but even I look up to her. She has done so many great things in so little time.