As we begin a new year, we continue a new edition of our WOMEN OF STRENGTH™️ campaign focusing on Faith, Hope and Love. The challenges of 2020 have highlighted the strength and courage of healthcare workers across the country and we are starting this new year by honoring these heroies. The frontline workers below were chosen based on their unique experiences with faith, hope or love, and how they personally played an important role in helping others in need. Discover their inspirational stories that serve as a reminder to us all that a positive mindset is the key to success.

Gabrielle and Alexandria Ryan

Pediatric Registered Nurses
Omaha, NE

Alexandra (Lexi) and Gabrielle (Gibby) Ryan are nurses in the cardiac care unit at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, NE. Gibby was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot and has had two open heart surgeries by the age of 14. Her twin sister, Lexie, has been by her side every step of the way. Both Lexie and gibby have dreamt of being nurses after spending a lot of time at Children’s Hospital over the years. Watching nurses and doctors help children and families, analyzing Gibby’s procedures and their interest in science made them realize this is what they wanted to do in their life.

What does Faith mean to you?

Lexie: Faith is knowing that things will always be ok, even if they are not. During this trying time for our family, supported by family and friends. Our family was showered with love whether it was food, prayers, or just stopping by to just sit with our family. Things were so difficult but we were lifted by others, and I knew that things were going to be ok. 

Gibby: Faith means believing in miracles that seem impossible. There is so much unknown in the world and faith is what gets me through the day. I have faith in God’s plan for me and feel that every day is a gift.

Why was Faith important to help get you through the challenges in your life and any challenges you faced last year?

Lexie: In my job, I see very sick kids, I have seen life and death, I have seen kids get discharged and go on to lead a normal life, but I have also witnessed kids not made, and the devastation. Faith gives me the strength to push on. 

GIbby: When I was 14, I couldn’t wrap my head around why this was happening. The morning of my survey I was really struggling, I was scared and didn’t want to go through with it. I remember in the midst of my fear, miraculously a family friend whom is a pastor ame to pre-op and held me as I cried. I told him I didn’t want to go through with this surgery, and he told me I had to have Faith in the doctors and that God was there with me and wouldn’t put me through anything my family and I couldn’t handle. Faith doesn’t make things easy, it gives you strength to get through them.

Gabrielle, how did your sister’s support help you persevere?

Gibby: As hard and scary as my experience was, I knew I was never alone. Lexie went to every x-ray, every walk, and almost every appointment I’ve ever had. She pushed me when I was younger to meet every developmental milestone, and she stayed with me when I was in the intensive care unit after surgery. She pushed me to be normal, and not let my defects define me. I remember after my second open heart she walked with me every day so I could regain my strength I had before surgery. Lexie is my best friend, and my rock, I can’t imagine my life without her.

Alexandria, what were some ways you supported your sister through the years?

Lexie: Quite honestly, I have treated her like a normal sibling. I have made it a point to not allow this to be a crutch. I never viewed her as being fragile due to her heart defect. I have loved her and supported through the years and all her procedures. I was there to walk the halls with her after surgery and I was there when they removed her chest tubes. I remember coming back to school after her surgery and I had to carry her back pack because she was not allowed to lift heavy objects. Gibby is my best friend and I would do anything for her, I just can’t imagine her not being in my life.

Do you believe your experiences help you when treating your patients?

Lexie: Absolutely, my family and my experience give me a unique perspective. When someone you love goes through something like this, there is so much fear. I know and understand that fear. This makes me more empathetic. My goal is to listen and be supportive of my patients and their families and to advocate for their health. 

Gibby: I believe my experiences can offer a unique perspective to not only my parents,  but their families as well. I can relate to the families fears because I watched my family have those same fears. I try every day to give my patients and their families the faith they need to make it through some of the hardest days of their lives. I hope I can give families hope that their kiddos can make it through this experience like my family and I did.

Caroline Helen Charbonnet

Cardiac ICU Nurse; School Nurse
Raleigh, NC

Caroline has worked in Public Service for several years, US Senate, a homeless shelter and mental health center, prior to becoming an ICU nurse. She has always been drawn to service as it’s an opportunity to help others and make a difference in their lives.

What does Hope mean to you?

To me - hope is that no matter what is happening today, tomorrow can and will always be different. Different is change. Different is hope. Hope can be wrapped up in wishing for something “better,” but in the moment of change it can be hard to know what is “better” for you. Just knowing that there is change is hope for me.

What has the last year looked like for you during the pandemic?

I constantly say that everything has changed for me, and yet, nothing changed. As a nurse, we kept working when many were laid off or started working from home. Of course, there was fear at the start, and we wear a lot more clothing (PPE) to do what we were already doing, but in the end - we are still doing our same job.

Why did you decide to work at Saint Mary’s School?

Saint Mary’s is equal and opposite to being a Cardiac ICU Nurse. These young women are typically healthy and the focus is primarily on preventative medicine. It can often be about coaching them on healthy habits and having an impact on their future health.

Drs. Murali and Leah Krishna

Pulmonary/Critical Care Physician and Psychologist
Monroe, NY

Murali grew up in Chennai India, moving to NYC in 2009 for a fellowship at Montefiore Medical Center after completing his residency in Texas. Three months after arriving in NYC, Murali met Leah at a wine bar for their first date. It was pretty much love at first sight - bonding on a mutual love of travel, psychology, and new experiences - and the pair have been together since. Love has played an important role in overcoming the challenges of 2020, as they continue to support each other and be there for one another every day.

What does love mean to you?

Complete dedication and commitment to generosity toward another person, no matter the obstacle - internal or external. Working on ongoing connection and meeting that person’s needs. Being vulnerable with the other pesona about one’s own needs.

What has the last year (2020) looked like for you during the pandemic?

Dr. Murali: As a physician, working in the ICU and pulmonary department, I had to charge ahead during this global crisis, helping people as best as I can during a time of such uncertainty and questions about available resources. I feel that this commitment to my work and role as a physician is what I was “meant to do” all along, and especially now. As a husband and father, however, working in the most high risk situation has been conceringin at times; fortunately, I have been able to stay healthy and my family has stayed healthy as well.

How did love help you get through any challenges you faced last year?

Love forms the bedrock of bravery; the love one feels and the loved ones held within one’s heart at all times allows individuals to feel confident and effective, and to act humanely in times of great challenge.

Can you tell us about something positive that came out of the challenges of last year or something you learned?

The resilience of people - both physically and emotionally - is always astounding. I am impressed with the challenges those around me have overcome and the bravery shown by my colleagues despite immense anxiety and fear. People are inspiring.