Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm
They may have a feeding tube. They may be attached to a machine that breathes for them, unable to communicate. They may be 2 months old or 10 years old.
Regardless of their individual condition, Kathleen Timm is by their side. She has dedicated her heart and love to sick children for 25 years.
Timm has three children who are married and have families of their own. They remind her of how blessed she is.
“I get to come home,” says Timm, who is a private duty nurse for Horizon Home Care & Hospice Inc. in Brown Deer. “The parents are still behind me taking care of that child.”
When homecare begins for her patients, it’s a difficult transition — especially for the parents.
“They have the realization that the child they love will need constant surveillance,” she says. “The world of homecare is a team effort; no one can do it alone. The watch is too great.”
The hours of assessing, keeping tubes open, clearing the child’s airway and keeping the child comfortable is an ongoing challenge that never slows.
Intervention is a constant in these children’s lives. It could be making sure the feeding tube is secured in the child’s abdomen. It could mean taking an hour or more to persuade a child to eat half an ounce of apple sauce or working with children through occupational, speech or physical therapies.
“It becomes the nurse’s responsibility to do this,” she says.
Often times, Timm’s patient is a premature baby who has spent six months in intensive care and has neurological problems. Some of the children are placed in high-risk medical foster care.
“Because the kids I’m seeing are on ventilators and have trakes (tracheotomy tubes), they need assessment 24 hours,” she says. “Pediatric nurses are tough to get, because it’s a world where you’re on your own, by yourself in the home. Generally, there may be mom or another person around, but you’re not in a hospital. You can’t call when equipment breaks down or a problem arises. It’s a different kind of nursing, because you have to rely on your own assessment skills.”
Since communication for these children can be a challenge, Timm resorts to music and sign language.
“I make up simple songs for each little person. I’ve found in response to a song, a child will point to his or her head, nose or chin, where before they couldn’t respond to verbal command,” she says.
Jenny Blahnik, the mother of Audrey, one of Timm’s patients, describes a nurse who arrives at her home each day with a satchel of supplies for the day’s activities. Timm laminated picture books and recorded songs for Audrey too. Timm sings most of the eight-hour day because Audrey loves music.
“There’s one girl who signs music every time she sees me because she likes it so much,” Timm says.
Honoring each and every child and doing her best to give the best experience in life she can is how she measures success.
“Every second I’m with that child, I celebrate his or her life,” Timm says. “There have been times I’ve stood at the bedside of a child who dies, or at a toddlers’ funeral,” Timm says, beginning to cry. “I think it’s important when we say goodbye, because life took a turn, and my heart breaks, I celebrate the life along with the parents and give my gifts.”
Timm says she will always remember each child’s smiles, glances, looks and grateful eyes. Brave parents and brave kids are the biggest and smallest heroes in her life. Timm was nominated for a Health Care Heroes Award by Mary Haynor, president and chief executive officer of Horizone Home Care & Hospice Inc.
“Nurses are a kind, caring group of people who work daily to assist others in need. Kathy Timm is all that and more. She is a Health Care Hero. Kathy is a hero because she take the profession of nursing to an entirely new plain,” Haynor says.
Timm remembers that an older line of thought was that a nurse had to remain professional and emotionally detached from her patients. Timm isn’t wired that way.
“When I’m driving away from the family for the night, I say, ‘It is happening again. I’m hooked,’” she says. “The old school was you just shouldn’t do it. But that’s not a part of the way I operate. Kids and parents can feel that, any family member can tell if you have invested yourself in the life of their child.”