CURE NATION: Brooklyn native Andrea Dalzell, RN, BSN, has a heart for healing. Her love of nursing began as a child when Andrea was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis (commonly known as TM) at the age of five, a neurological condition that causes paralysis.
She studied Biology and Neuroscience in college while earning her Associates and Bachelors degrees in Nursing. Today, she’s the first registered nurse who uses a wheelchair in the New York metro area, and thousands of clinicians, caregivers and wheelchair users follow her career pursuits as the Seated Nurse on Instagram.
We caught up with Andrea while she was presenting at the U.S. Pain Foundation’s 2019 Pediatric Pain Warrior Conference in Chicago, IL. Cure Medical was a proud financial sponsor of the event! Below, Andrea shares her insight and advice for dealing with chronic pain as a wheelchair user.
NOTE: This article is meant for informational use only. Please contact your physician for questions related to your individual health needs.
VIDEO: ANDREA STARS IN an APPLE WATCH COMMERCIAL AS A Health ADVOCATE
GRowing up with transverse myelitis
Although she was diagnosed as a five-year-old with Transverse Myelitis, Andrea was able to walk until she was twelve. “I don’t remember what the pain was like early on,” she recalls, “but in my teenage years, I was on a lot of pain medication. At one point I was even on codeine tablets.”
“I was on every pain management doctor’s list in New York because I couldn’t deal with the pain.”
High school years were the most difficult for Andrea. “I missed a lot of school because of the pain I was in,” she recalls. “Dealing with that as a teenager is extremely difficult. You want to have that social life, you want to be with your friends, you want to be out of the house. Sometimes, I neglected my own health because I just wanted to hang out with my friends.”
Andrea explains how she coped with pain as a teenager
While Andrea did often disregard her own health so that she could be with her friends, one day Andrea states that one of her close friends at the time gave her the realization she says she needed.
“I had a really good friend who said “I know you are in pain right now, and that you’re hanging out with us and just ignoring it. But I need you to be around for the long-run,” she recalls.
“He began making plans where we were either at his house or my house or another friend;s house where I could actually relax. However, I immediately felt the burden that I was keeping them from doing stuff. So he started planning one big trip a month instead of doing something every weekend,” Andrea adds.
“I got really lucky with having a great support system who wanted me to be healthy, and took care of me, and didn’t want me to miss out at the same time.”
why andrea shifted her career goal from being a doctor to becoming a nurse
Andrea says she initially never had a desire to be a nurse, but rather, aimed to become a doctor. Straight A’s in Neuroscience and Biology were her one-way ticket to medical school, she had made up her mind.
“I wanted to be a doctor, and I never wanted to tell someone that they couldn’t walk again.” she states.
“A friend who was already in medical school who invited me to sit in on one of his classes. Throughout that process of observing the class, I realized that what was being taught was the disease process. Med students were looking at someone as their disease rather than looking at them like a human being. I didn’t want to do that,” she explains.
One of Andrea’s friends then suggested that she may want to switch to nursing. At first, she was hesitant, because she knew she would probably be one of the first wheelchair users to try to become a registered nurse in New York. She knew there would be obstacles.
“I applied to take the pre-entrance exam a year before I actually took it,” Andrea says with a laugh. Scoring 30% higher than everyone else who tested beside her, she applied to nursing school six months later.
The seated nurse: Andrea’s personal reward in nursing
Now that Andrea is working as a full-time registered nurse, she describes her job as incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.
“Right now, one of the most rewarding parts is overcoming this huge obstacle that is often deemed impossible for someone with a physical disability. I’m the first person in a wheelchair to complete nursing school in the City University of New York Nursing Program,” she relays.
“Every day, someone with a disability is being turned away from nursing schools across the nation. But obviously I’ve proven and other nurses who use wheelchairs have proven that we can do it.”
Andrea goes on to say that another rewarding aspect of her profession is having the ability to offer insight based off her personal experience. That insight gives her the opportunity to help individuals achieve their goals of being active and healthy while still making sure their medical needs are met.
advice for parents of children with chronic pain
Andrea says that the biggest thing parents can do for a child who is experiencing chronic pain is to listen to them.
“Listen to what they are saying. Every day will not be the same,” she advises.
She explains to parents that balancing out activities can help a child take their mind off the pain, while still maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle.
“It’s not always about putting children on pain medications, either,” she adds. “Usually, one of the first things doctors want to do is prescribe drugs. However, other options out there can also mitigate pain, whether it’s essential oils or taking a hot shower. We want to implement those alternatives into the child’s day, too.”
natural remedies for chronic pain
There are so many therapies that have the potential to lower our pain or help us find balance and stability in the midst of chaos and pain. Andrea recommends a few of her own coping strategies below:
Andrea says that breathing exercises help manage pain tremendously. “You can visualize pain relief while breathing with a focus on the areas that you feel pain. It really comes down to mediation and realizing how pain is affecting you in that moment.”
Hot Packs & Warm Showers
“When it’s cold, I have a lot of pain too,” she states. Andrea uses hot packs and takes hot showers or goes to a sauna to aid in regulating her body temperature when it is cold, since her body doesn’t regulate properly on its’ own.Essential Oils
“Find one that you really like, that helps you take your mind off of the pain and focus on the aroma. Pairing that with breathing exercises really helps. As you listen to your body, become more aware of when you need to pull back and take care of you.”
Andrea recommends the following oils that she uses personally when coping with pain:
- Lavender mixed with Eucalyptus
- Peppermint mixed with Rose
For more tips and tricks, follow Andrea on her Instagram page.
Are you experiencing pain when you self-cath?
If you are, talk with your healthcare provider to discuss your concerns along with different catheters that may work better for you. Here’s six ideas that may help make self-cathing more convenient and less of a hassle for your lifestyle.We all want to use medical supplies that are best for our bodies and overall health.
For Andrea, self-care goes beyond her personal need to be happy with her own experience.
She says, “As a nurse, I had to start caring about the medical supplies I was using, so I could be in the best position to suggest products to patients. Often, we’re not taught to be big advocates about our own bodies and the products we use, plus we aren’t usually screened enough.”
When it comes to choosing her medical supplies, Andrea feels an obligation to be thoroughly knowledgeable about all available products — not just for her own well-being, but so she can be in the best position to inform her patients.
That’s why Andrea was so glad she discovered catheters made by Cure Medical that aren’t made with scary chemicals like DEHP, BPA and Natural Rubber Latex.
Cure catheters are made with polished eyelets for maximum comfort and come in a variety of lengths and tip-styles. The look and convenience of Cure’s products are a big plus for Andrea, too.
“I am currently loving the Cure Twist. It’s so easy to use and throw away. And, besides, the packaging is pretty,” Andrea explains.
To request free samples of the Cure Twist® or any Cure Medical catheter, contact your local distributor of quality healthcare products, or click here.
More Resources for People Who Have Chronic Pain
U.S. Pain Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to serving those who live with pain conditions and their care providers. They aim to assist more than 50 million Americans who live with chronic pain through their free programs and services.
U.S. Pain Foundation also offers a list of more than 50 complimentary therapies on their website that can be used to assist with pain management.Founded by a quadriplegic, Cure Medical is the only catheter manufacturer in the world that donates10% of net income to support research programs in pursuit of a cure for urinary retention, paralysis, spinal cord injury and central nervous system disorders.
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