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Never Give Up: Nurse and Patient Connect Through the Power of Hope

June 4, 2014

Friendships begin in all kinds of ways. Ali Frede Rankey and Tina Ducharme became friends in a hospital room, their friendship forged through a long recovery.

On July 13, 1997, a then 20-year-old Rankey and her brother Jason were driving home from the Lake of the Ozarks. Their mom was driving in a car in front of them, and their dad behind them. She doesn’t remember what happened, but their car blew a tire, they rolled six times and landed on the hood of a car going west bound.

Rankey’s seatbelt saved her life, but ripped her abdominal wall, punctured three holes in her small intestine and left a hole in her side. Her seat-belt had rested too high - on her stomach instead of her hips. Her brother had a broken neck. Doctors told their parents Ali wasn’t going to make it, and Jason would never walk. Both predictions were wrong.

After two months at University Hospital in Columbia, Mo., Rankey was transferred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, under the care of Ira Kodner, MD, Washington University colorectal surgeon. Tina Ducharme, now a nurse at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, was then at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “Tina became so much a part of my life,” Rankey says.

Ducharme cared for Rankey for seven months. “I would put my head by her’s on the pillow, and tell her to think of her happy place – the beach,” she says. “Ali never said, ‘I can’t, I won’t.’ Giving up wasn’t an option.”

After enduring more than 40 surgeries, today Rankey is a wife, mother and teacher. Her brother did walk again, and is a husband and father. Rankey is vocal about the need for a positive attitude, as well as the importance of proper seat belt use. She is writing a book. “I tell my students, ‘Don’t ever tell Mrs. Rankey, you can’t do something,” she says. “You have to work hard, and it’s not easy, but never give up’.”

Ducharme and Rankey stay in contact. They attend each other’s special occasions and their children have play dates.

Ducharme joined Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital four years ago as a wound care nurse. “I knew I wanted to be a nurse when I was 7 years old,” she says.

“As a nurse you never know how your care of patient is going to impact someone. There are hard days, but there also are days that you laugh. There’s always hope.”

Seat belts save lives, but must be worn properly – snug against the body, and low on the lap.

To find a physician at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, call 314.542.WEST (9378).

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