The Great Comebacks® Program named Joanna Burgess, RN, CWOCN, its 2012 National Award Winner, and has given Harriet Pilert, RN, MS, CWOCN, its 2012 Wound, Ostomy and Continence (WOC) Nurse Great Comebacks® Award. Both presentations were made at the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses (WOCN) Society’s 44th Annual Conference in Charlotte, NC.
The National Award is given to an ostomy patient, and Burgess, of Apex, NC, was a patient long before she became a nurse. At age 3, she was diagnosed with a rare type of bladder cancer. Urostomy surgery and radiation therapy saved her life, but led to a lifetime of complications. The strong cobalt radiation affected the growth of her bones, and for much of her life she has had difficulty walking. Thirty years after her urostomy surgery, she also chose to have a colostomy to end years of recurring pain due to radiation-induced colitis.
Declared “disabled” from work, Burgess nevertheless pursued her passion: becoming a nurse, initially specializing in pediatrics, and traveling on mission trips around the world. In 2008, she became a wound, ostomy and continence nurse. Burgess is currently working to establish an outpatient ostomy care clinic at her hospital to allow more patients to work with a specialty-care nurse through all stages of their follow-up care after surgery.
“Through all of Joanna’s challenges, her positive attitude and desire to help others kept her going. Great Comebacks® is proud to recognize Joanna for everything she has done, as a patient and as a nurse, to build greater awareness and educate others about living life with an ostomy,” said Rolf Benirschke, Founder and Chairman, Great Comebacks® Program.
Pilert, an ostomy and continence nurse at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD, was recognized for the exceptional care she has provided to Jenn Stahl, the 2011 Great Comebacks® East Region Award recipient, other patients and their families. Stahl suffered with painful bouts of Crohn’s disease for 22 years and once said she “would rather die” than have ostomy surgery. In 2009, Stahl was introduced to Pilert to help her through the surgery she had avoided for decades.
Pilert’s patience, understanding, and encouragement helped Stahl accept her new way of living and focus on the benefits of ostomy surgery and better health. While in the hospital recovering, she put up a poster listing all the new things she would now be able to do with her family that she hadn’t been able to do before the ostomy.
“Harriet is a source of comfort for all of her patients and takes important steps to help them adjust to living with an ostomy. Great Comebacks® is honored to recognize her great work and the remarkable thoughtfulness and commitment of all ostomy nurses,” Benirschke said.
“By sharing their stories, Great Comebacks® recipients provide support and encouragement to millions of patients affected by these debilitating conditions or facing ostomy surgery,” says Benirschke, former San Diego Chargers place-kicker and ulcerative colitis patient.
The awards are sponsored by ConvaTec, a world-leading developer and marketer of innovative medical technologies for community and hospital care, in partnership with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (CCFA), the United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. (UOAA), WOCN, and the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS).