Susan Krinsky: Continence Care Clinician, United States
There exists what one might describe as maternal prescience. Mothers simply know.
“My mother knew more about us than we knew about ourselves,” says Sue. “I dare say she still does. She knew I was going to be a nurse and my sister was going to be a teacher and my brother was going to be successful. She was right on all three counts.”
Sue volunteered as a Candy Striper at Fordham Hospital in the Bronx when she was in high school. Caring for others, she found, is second nature to her. She isn’t the least bit squeamish or intimidated. As a volunteer she lavished attention on patients, talking with them, singing to them, listening, bolstering their spirits, hugging them, being their friend. Her mother was right. Sue was born to be a nurse.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
We all need someone who believes in us, especially when we find it difficult to believe in ourselves. Someone who does not provide sympathy, but rather encouragement. Someone who challenges us, relentlessly. Sue is that someone. The zeal and dedication and knowledge she brings to her profession are as much a measure of her character as of her ethos.
Sue graduated from high school at 16 and had to wait a year (during which time she incongruously took a job on Wall Street) before she was eligible to apply to a nursing college. Her first job as a Registered Nurse was in maternity. She was 19.
“I knew I wanted children, so I thought I better learn about babies.”
After that, she worked in paediatrics. “By then I had two children and I needed to know how to take care of them when they got sick.”
Sue has occupied practically every position available to an RN in an acute care setting, including telemetry, orthopaedics, critical care, and now, rehabilitation. She is a CRRN (Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse) on staff at the HealthSouth Sunrise Rehabilitation Hospital in Sunrise, Florida — a position she has held for the past 23 years.
The facility’s Day Rehab Gym, where she works, bustles with activity. Physical, occupational, and speech therapists handle patients with medically complex neurological problems: brain injury, spinal cord injury, and stroke. The atmosphere is one of determination, grit, and small victories. A man accompanied by his therapist displays deep concentration; lips pursed, eyes unblinking, he kicks one unsteady foot out in front of the other, learning once again, how to walk.
A young boy, suspended in an ambulator and facing a full-length mirror, watches as the machine ambulates his legs to trigger the memory of walking.
“While walking is an unlearned pattern of behavior independent of memory, triggering memory through sustained visual and physical cues can facilitate relearning how to walk.”
A woman seated at a table throws back her head and claps her hands in triumph having successfully completed a lace-up exercise.
In 2007, together with two young men, Alex, a paraplegic, and John, a quadriplegic, Sue founded the Spinal Cord Injury Support Group (SCISG).
“No one can talk to a chair like another chair.”
The better part of four years hence, the group, which meets once a month, has over 300 members.
Thanks to their efforts, there are now support groups in three counties in Southern Florida: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Ocala.
Just as Sue found her calling at 14, those who actively participate in the support group heed an inner call to be of service. Introducing himself on a group level, a lean young man talks about the motorcycle accident that left him confined to a wheelchair. “I’m a better man for it,” he says. His call too has come.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill
Sue’s office at SCISG is crammed with photographs — “That’s when 12 of us from the support group, together with 60 able-bodied volunteers, went tandem skydiving to raise money for our group.” — trophies — among them, HealthSouth National Employee of the Year — proclamations — one from the Office of the Mayor of Sunrise declaring October “Spinal Cord Awareness Month” (the mayor, incidentally, was instrumental in helping establish the Sunrise Suns, an independent wheelchair basketball team Sue helped initiate, by donating $2,000 for a chair and rallying others to do the same) — innumerable tchotchkes — including a key ring with a miniature toilet that makes a flushing noise when you press the tiny handle — clippings and sayings and gifts — above her desk hangs a small painting of a palm tree silhouetted against a canary yellow background, made and given to her by a patient (“When the person I’m talking to is stressed, I tell them to focus on it for a few minutes and breathe.”) — stacks of notebooks, piles of paperwork, a computer — and one lone plant — a spiraling Lucky Bamboo growing, as these plants do, against the odds.
Sue works long days by choice, including most weekends. Her take-charge attitude is contagious and invariably rubs off on her patients. “Caring is not coddling,” she says matter-of-factly. “Patients can’t wish themselves better. They have to work for it.” She pauses for a moment, then adds emphatically, “They have to want to work for it.” Her eyes gleam when she smiles, which she almost always does. Sue’s dream is to open a Disability Resource and Recreation Center in Broward County, Florida. Given her tenacity, it will be another of her dreams come true.
“I couldn’t have done it without her,” says native Floridian Christine, whose auburn beauty and apparent inner strength belies the hideous crime committed against her,crushing her bones but not her spirit, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.
“Sue’s my hero,” Christine says admiringly. “No,” counters Sue, “you’re mine.”