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Graduating student inspired to become a nurse after open heart surgery

Linette Iloh (ABC News photo)

One nursing student was inspired to choose the selfless profession after her open heart surgery 10 years ago.

That's when Linette Iloh met two nurses who had a profound impact on her life.

The Bowie State University senior originally intended to be a lawyer. But that changed when she was studying at Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland, on a full softball scholarship.

"I fell ill," the Bowie, Maryland, student recalled. "I was sleeping all day."

Iloh, 27, would later discover that she had pericarditis, or an enlarged heart, and needed immediate open heart surgery at only 18 years old. A specialist referred her to Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Maryland, where she underwent surgery on November 23, 2007.

"I had two of the best nurses," Iloh said of her five-day stint in the hospital.

Two nurses helped her with different tests before surgery, prayed with her before the surgery and even ensured she ate at the appropriate time the night before her surgery, Iloh said. They also kept her mother up to date on the very latest, she added.

Iloh remembers one particular nurse whose face was the first she saw after the anesthesia wore off from her surgery.

"She was holding my hand," she said, emphatically. "It was the emotional support I needed because I didn't know what was going on. I had a breathing tube and she was there to calm me down. That's all I remember."

Her nurses also pushed her to walk the day after surgery. Iloh added, "They pushed me even though I didn't want to. They made me get up and eat and interact with other patients."

Iloh said the surgery was "an eye-opener that life is really short." It also made her change her mind about becoming a lawyer. Instead, she wanted to now become a nurse.

"It made me think of nurses different. I never thought that nurses impacted people's lives like that," Iloh said. "I knew they provided care, but I didn't know they provided emotional support. I wanted to give that feeling to somebody else in the future."

"It is truly heartening to know Linette is not only living a full life after her heart surgery but also that the care she received from nurses here at Washington Adventist Hospital could lead her to such a fulfilling career. We are so pleased to hear that she will go on to spread the kind of compassionate care that made a difference to her as a patient," said Amy Dukovcic, a heart care nurse practitioner, who oversees one of the nurses who cared for Iloh, Elena Agatep.

Iloh graduated from Bowie State University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She had her pinning ceremony in which she had to take the Nightingale Pledge, named after iconic nurse Florence Nightingale.

The graduating student, who's currently working at Anne Arundel Medical Center, said she hopes to work in pediatric care going forward.

"My true passion is children. I'm excited to hopefully get a job [in that field]. Once I get that I'm going to be just over the moon," she said.

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