HOUSTON - We're highlighting a Houston nurse this National Nurse's Week, who unfortunately lost her more than a decade ago, but witnessing her mom's illness prompted her to switch careers and become a nurse.
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Cristi Luque says she adores how meaningful her job is at the rehabilitation hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann. Her patients and colleagues feel the same way, nominating her for The Daisy Award, created for extraordinary nurses.
"For me, it's so important that being the first line that they see, that I really give them the best experience that they could have, just touching base with them and really just loving them," says Cristi. "Every one of my patients is my family, so as soon as I see you, go to your room and I do my assessment on you, you now become a member of my family."
Cristi has only been working at TIRR for two years. She made a big career change after witnessing the medical field "up close and personal" during her mother's illness. Her mom meant everything to her.
"I was actually adopted when I was two weeks old from a little orphanage in Madera County, California, by my mom, and it was really special because she always said that she hand-picked me, you know, out of all the babies, so that always made me feel special," says Cristi.
Cristi's mom was loving and nurturing throughout her childhood. Then Cristi got to return the favor when her mom became ill with late-stage cancer.
"She fought hard for two years and sadly passed away in 2011," says Cristi.
At the time, Cristi had an understanding boss who allowed her to be by her mother's side. She never missed one appointment during her cancer treatment.
"I really just observed everybody who was in the field because we saw many doctors at MD Anderson and Memorial Hermann, all the physicians and nurses, and I just really wanted to be a part of that," says Cristi. "I wanted to help her memory live on, and I felt like that was the best way for me to do is to give back to all those people."
After losing her mom, Cristi went to nursing school and now takes her job very seriously at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
"It is the best thing that I have ever done, the best, especially working here at TIRR, all of my patients here," explains Cristi. "TIRR is a special place, it's a very special place! And the reason it's so special is because we get many patients that have experienced life trauma that has happened unexpectedly. So, we're driving down the road, somebody hits us, and next thing you know the car slipping, and you wake up, and you're paralyzed."
That's just one example of the many types of patients Cristi works with, helping them regain control of their bodies and their lives. She gets emotionally close to her patients here because it's just not a typical hospital stay. Instead of a day or two, her patients seek treatment here, anywhere from weeks to months and even years.
"The most wonderful piece about that is that you really get to develop a personal relationship with them," adds Cristi.
"Many of our patients go home, and they go home with family training, so anything that I can do to help them get there faster, get better faster, that's what I strive to do every day," she continues. "I always tell them it is a critical part of their healing process is to have family there with them because they're scared, and they're by themselves, and they don't know what's going to happen."
She continues to lend them a healing touch, all while keeping her mother's loving legacy alive.