Son's care inspires mom to become nurse

  1. Published Sunday
    June 20, 2004

    Son's care inspires mom to become nurse

    FREMONT, Neb. (AP) - On Sept. 12, 2001, a white dove was released in Fremont following the funeral of Dylan Dixon.

    The son of Jenni and Clint Dixon, 4-month-old Dylan had been hospitalized his entire life due to a virus that damaged his liver and most of his small intestine. Despite the efforts of the staff in the pediatric intensive care unit at Children's Hospital in Omaha, he died Sept. 9, 2001.

    But Jenni Dixon never forgot the skill and compassion shown by the unit's nursing staff.

    "The attention Dylan needed and got was amazing," she said.

    It wasn't long after Dylan's death that Jenni, 24, began considering a nursing career.

    The thought stayed with Jenni, and in August 2002 she enrolled in the nursing program at Midland Lutheran College. With a graduation target date of May 2006, she hopes someday to work in the pediatric intensive care unit at Children's Hospital.

    To fulfill a class requirement, she recently volunteered to observe a nurse practitioner on duty in the unit where Dylan had spent his short life. There, she ran into some of the physicians who had treated her son.

    "Their jaws just hit the ground," she said. "I said, 'You remember me, don't you?'"

    Indeed, the doctors did. They expressed concern that being in the unit might bring back painful memories for the nursing student.

    "I said, 'I'm here to learn, and I'm going to do it,'" Jenni said.

    Enrolled this summer in a 10-week program at Children's, she'll spend three nights a week in the unit, caring for the hospital's tiniest patients. Recently she held a baby who had received a transplant similar to the one her own son had needed.

    "He was doing so wonderfully," she said, "and I'm so happy for him and his family. It's like closure for me, because I know that's where Dylan should have been."

    Jenni watches parents who arrive each day at the unit. She knows how they feel.

    "I hold back because I'm not the nurse," she said. "But I would love to give them a hug and say, 'I've been in your shoes. That's why I'm doing this.'"

    While carrying a full load of classes, Jenni has another career at home. Sons Brendan, 5, and Dylan's twin brother, Tyler, 3, keep her busy, even with husband Clint's help.

    She also cares for the family's special pet, a white dove.

    It's the one that was released at Dylan's funeral.

    "It wouldn't leave," Jenni said. "So we brought it home and named it Dylan."

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