Teresa Kitchen, RN, was mixing Terry Young’s augmentation infusion when he got the call: his new lungs had arrived, and he needed to rush over to the hospital for his transplant.
Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO, was right across the street from Young’s temporary housing, but Young – the first AlphaNet coordinator and later its first general manager, who at the time had 11 percent lung function – was in no shape for the walk.
He asked Kitchen, who had just started working as a clinical nurse manager for AlphaNet – to get the car for him and his wife. “He got the call, I had to go get the car, bring it up, and drive out, down and onto the other side of the street,” Kitchen said. “I took him to the hospital. He told me not to wreck his car. He had such a great sense of humor.”
With Kitchen’s assistance, Young received a successful double lung transplant on Oct. 4, 2007. He lived for seven more years with his new lungs, passing away in October 2014 at age 64. “I miss him,” Kitchen said. “He had a good personality. He always reached out to try to help his co-workers in the Alpha–1 community. He’s greatly missed for his sense of humor, and all that he did for the Alpha community.”
To honor nurses like Kitchen for their hard work, long hours and dedicated service, the American Nurses Association recognizes National Nurses Week. Taking place each year from May 6–12 – in honor of Florence Nightingale’s birthday – the week celebrates the brave nurses like Nightingale and Kitchen who have devoted their careers to caring for others.
Kitchen has been caring for Alphas during much of her mora than two-decade long career as a nurse, and specifically during her last 10 years as a clinical nurse manager for AlphaNet.
“I am the T in team,” Kitchen said. “I’m always a team player. I want to help whatever way I can, with anything we’re doing. When there is a need, people call me because they know I will help.”
Clinical nurse managers are responsible for directing, organizing and supervising the work of their nursing staff. They also coordinate nursing efforts to ensure that effective patient care is being provided and that quality standards are met.
“I kind of call myself a gopher, because I kind of do a little of everything. You put everything in the kitchen sink,” she said, playfully referring to her last name.
“AlphaNet is very fortunate to have someone as talented, caring, and dedicated as Teresa Kitchen serving as our clinical nurse manager,” said Jim Quill, who was until recently manager of the Prolastin Direct Program at AlphaNet. “She is an outstanding resource to everyone at AlphaNet and, together with our entire team, ensures that our service to Alphas remains our top priority.”
Teresa Kitchen receiving a nursing award presented by Robert Sandhaus, MD, PhD
For her efforts, Kitchen won the Kathleen McKay Nursing Award from the Alpha–1 Foundation in June 2011, for excellence in nursing. Before joining AlphaNet, she worked as an infusion nurse for Coram, going to patients’ homes and drawing blood, placing infusion lines in their arms, or changing their infusion dressings each week.
In the mid–90s, she started to infuse a couple of Alphas with augmentation therapy. That led her in 1999 to a job as a clinical nurse coordinator for Express Scripts, working for the Bayer Direct program, then the sole source for Prolastin, the first Alpha–1 augmentation therapy.
“I was chosen because I was a nurse who had given Prolastin therapy and had helped Alphas,” she said. In 2007, she was asked to come out to a Alpha–1 Foundation National Education Conference in Washington, D.C., where she was interviewed by AlphaNet and accepted the job as clinical nurse manager.
As a patient advocate, she supports all AlphaNet coordinators, explains to patients that many Alphas are undiagnosed, and encourages Alphas to get their family members tested, she said, “because you’re not the only one out there.”
She also instructs other nurses on how to treat people with Alpha–1, and encourages Alphas to look at the Foundation website to find out if there is a support group in their area.
“I hope in my lifetime that we see as many purple ribbons as we do pink ribbons for awareness, and that we find a cure,” Kitchen said, “because we’ve come so far in the last 25 years.”
This story was originally published on May 12, 2016