Judith’s passionAt age 32 Judith Demeritte began studies towards fulfilling her dreams to become a nurse, today she’s a specialized oncology nurse
All children dream of what they want to be when they grow up — and Judith Demeritte was no exception — it was either a flight attendant or nurse, but as she grew older, the thought of becoming a nurse took even greater hold as she found herself gravitating towards nursing little wounds on her siblings at home, and always trying to always take care of somebody.
But being the middle child of eight siblings, her dream wasn’t a priority.
“Being a middle child and with low income, and smack dab in the middle, mom couldn’t afford college, and didn’t see it as feasible. It wasn’t,” said the 44-year-old Demeritte.
After graduating high school she found employment as a sales clerk at a hotel, being married at age 20 to her husband Sidney, and giving birth to a healthy baby boy Sidney James Jr., or so she thought.
At two months her son developed a high fever and he responded with one seizure after the next. He was admitted to hospital where he was diagnosed with meningitis for which he was treated. Sidney did not recover. His health deteriorated to the point where he had to be put on life support.
“We even had the priest come in to give last rites after he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for specialized care. We were told by doctors to start making funeral arrangements, as there was nothing more the medical professionals could do for him. Through prayers and our faith in God my husband and I never gave up hope. Having to care for my son became my priority at that time.”
Not long after receiving the poor prognosis of her son’s condition, Demeritte and her husband were introduced to Dr. Corrine Sinquee a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at PMH. The doctor assumed the medical management of her son who was later diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells).
“[Sinquee] thought some things didn’t add up. She diagnosed him as having leukemia and not meningitis and that’s when he started to recover and transferred to Pediatric Ward.”
Sinquee recommended they take their son to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, for further management. The family relocated to the United States to seek the care he desperately needed. Four months after his birth in 1994, they took Sidney to Florida, where Demeritte remained with her son for eight years, as they did every experimental treatment to help their son. He got full remission within a year, but relapsed, which meant the introduction of new protocol.
Today Sidney is in full remission after an experimental protocol of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. They returned home when he was age eight in 2000.
Demeritte and her husband also went through a divorce.
“With me being there and him being here to work, and with everything going on, it just didn’t work,” she said.
Demeritte moved in with her sister Bernadette Rolle, and shared her dream of wanting to pursue studies to become a nurse.
“At first she thought I was crazy, because I did not have a well-paying job that would meet my financial obligations to attend college,” said Demeritte. “Later I got a job as an anesthetist assistant, working in the Operating Theater at the Princess Margaret Hospital.”
Demeritte began making strides to make her dream reality. She was 32-years-old when she started nursing studies and said she was excited that she was finally doing it.
“My boss realized I was becoming bored, and he said why didn’t I do something else. I was telling him I wanted to be a TCN [trained clinical nurse] nurse, but he suggested RN [registered nurse].
“RN is same as staff nurse — we have more duties, we give medication, manage ward, and staff. Trained clinical nurses assist.
“I saved and inquired into the process of enrollment into nursing school. I completed the necessary college preparatory classes at the College of the Bahamas [now University of The Bahamas], and soon was enrolled part time in the Registered Nursing Programme at the College of the Bahamas, while working full time, and taking care of my children.”
Seven years after she started, she graduated from the College of the Bahamas as a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science Degree in nursing at age 39.
Demeritte’s dream had become reality.
She began her nursing career at the Princess Margaret Hospital as a staff nurse on January 20, 2014.
“I fell in love with the nursing profession even more,” she said.
“During the clinical rotation through the medical, surgical, pediatric units, as well as the Post Anaesthetic Care Unit, I nursed patients with various illnesses, I felt as if I was fulfilling my purpose. I learnt quite a lot during the clinical rotation, however, it was not until I was assigned to the Pediatric Unit, when I was introduced to a 13-year-old girl who was newly diagnosed with acute myeloblastic leukemia, that I felt my dream had been fulfilled.
“I would always volunteer to assist the nurses who came from the Oncology Clinic to administer the chemotherapy medication to the child. I would share my interest with them as often as I could. I became interested in this highly skilled, specialty, oncology nursing. A year and a half went by, the principal nursing officer, became aware of my interest in oncology nursing and assigned me to work in the Oncology Clinic.”
In May 2017 Demeritte was accepted to pursue a course in Pediatric Haematology Oncology Nursing, at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. The specialty course was facilitated by the SickKids Foundation, Toronto, Canada, a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to distribute in the areas of most need, including research, clinical advances and compassionate care at The Hospital for Sick Children.
“I was encouraged to pursue my dream by Ms. Valerie Miller, the principal nursing officer; my supervisor, Ms. Patricia Newbold, senior nursing officer, with responsibility for the Ambulatory Care Department of the Princess Margaret Hospital; and Dr. Corrine Sinquee, consultant oncologist. I embraced the opportunity to further enhance my professional skills, and to give innovated care to the patients I serve.”
Demeritte successfully completed the one-year long Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nursing Course, and has returned home having fulfilled her dream. And she surpassed her dream of becoming just a nurse, she became a nurse specialized in the care of pediatric patients with oncological conditions. Her skills are now extended to both the Oncology Clinic and the Pediatric Department at the Princess Margaret Hospital.
“Having the opportunity to specialize in pediatric hematology and oncology nursing has surpassed my dream of becoming a professional nurse. When working with adult patients, caregivers, children and their parents, my own experience as a parent of a cancer survivor allows me to empathize and give hope to these patients and caregivers,” said Demeritte. “I give thanks to the Almighty for allowing me to pursue my dream and making it a reality. Nursing, the most noble profession, is my passion.”
As Demeritte works in her dream profession, May is recognized as Nurses Month, which raises awareness of the important role nurses play in society, and the professionals they are. The month is also recognized dually as Oncology Nursing Month during which you are encouraged to honor an oncology nurse who has made a real difference in oncology nursing.