By Chondra Perry, Brooke Army Medical Center: FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Oct. 18, 2012 - A teenager's wish to serve as a nurse in a military hospital came true Oct. 11, thanks to a group of nurses assigned to San Antonio Military Medical Center here and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.Aissa was "sworn in" to the Army Nurse Corps for the day by Army Col. Kimberly Smith, Brooke Army Medical Center's chief of nursing services, in a ceremony by the hospital's main entrance. Later, Smith presented Aissa's grandmother with a ribbon on behalf of her own mother, who was also a nurse.
Aissa performs an assessment on Army Capt. Matthew Anderson at San Antonio Military Medical Center, Texas, Oct. 11, 2012. Aissa's wish to be a nurse in a military facility was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation and SAMMC nurses. U.S. Army photo by Chondra Perry
"The ribbon belonged to my mother. It has special significance, because I lost my mother six years ago," Smith said. "I thought how cool would it be to share this ribbon, because my mom would be so thrilled to hear about her story."
Aissa was given a uniform, boots, blood pressure cuff, stethoscope and custom dog tags. Before being whisked away by a group of nurses, she shared the reason for her wish.
"I get sick a lot, and I feel good when I help people," she said. "Life is a challenge, and I don't give up."
Aissa said her desire to be a nurse in a military facility was the result of spending countless hours in hospitals and wanting to help other people, especially those recovering from war injuries.
The teen, who has been battling epilepsy and other illnesses, quickly changed into her uniform and began her rounds. She visited the SAMMC Simulation Center, where nurses taught her how to perform an adult, child and pediatric assessment, as well as how to initiate an intravenous drip and secure an airway.
"We wanted her to learn and get hands on," said Army 1st Lt. Mollie Franks, clinical staff nurse and one of seven nurses Aissa shadowed throughout the day. "I'm excited and amazed she chose this. We tend to forget how honored we are to be in this profession. I wanted to do all I could to make this special for her."
The next stop was the orthopedic ward where Aissa assisted in caring for wounded service members Capt. Ryan Keogh and Capt. Matthew Anderson.
Keogh, an Army Ranger injured in Afghanistan, was more than happy to help grant her wish. "If I can help somebody else have a better day, then absolutely," he said.
Aissa listened to his lungs, stomach and checked his pulse. She determined, with the help of other nurses, that he would be OK.
Anderson, who also was injured while deployed in Afghanistan, helped to point out some of his veins on the monitor while Aissa used a vein-finding machine.
"I think it's great that I can help grant her wish," Anderson said. "It's the least we can do, and it's nice to see that people are going out of their way to make this happen for her."
After seeing a few more patients and learning how to read an electrocardiography monitor, Aissa met with Army Maj. Gen. M. Ted Wong, BAMC commander, who presented her with a commander's coin for excellence surrounded by Army, Air Force and civilian nurses.
She was also presented with a signed photograph of SAMMC and a coin on behalf of Maj. Gen. Jimmie O. Keenan, commanding general U.S. Army Public Health Command and chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.
"This day was beyond our expectations," said Aissa's mother, Cynthia Alvarez, who spent the day watching her daughter learn the ropes. "I'm so happy. She's so happy, and we're so thankful."
And in the words of the teen nurse: "I loved every part."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is an organization that grants wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.