A Permanent Reminder On A Temporary Body

A Permanent Reminder On A Temporary Body

My tattoo wasn't "just because," and that means something.
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When my sister passed away in 2004 at the far too young age of four, my heart broke. Although I was still young myself, the memory of her life still flooded my mind. She loved nachos and mac n'cheese. Her sass exceeded mine, which I didn't think was possible. Her little glasses were almost always crooked. She had the sweetest soul and the kindest heart. In the days, months, and years following her death, we remembered our beautiful brown-eyed girl in various ways. We celebrated her birthday with massive plates of cheesy nachos and strawberry shortcake. On Christmas Eve, we dotted her grave with little candles that shone brightly in the dark and snowy cemetery. My mom wrote a book to tell the story of our Hannah Marie, in order that we might not forget even the smallest detail of her short life.

Almost thirteen years later, Hannah's life seems to be a somewhat distant memory in the past. Momma's book sits dusty on the shelf, still full of meaningful words, but only to be pulled out and read on the anniversary of our baby girl's death. We remember her less often, as life moves on and the love of our family has partially filled the hole in our hearts. I don't want to forget my sister; I don't want there to be a day that goes by that I don't think about her long brown hair and the way she smiled with those ridiculously crooked teeth. To me, the best way to remember Hannah is no longer with a bouquet of flowers or a quick glance at her picture sitting on my nightstand. I love those memories but I want something more, something permanent.

A tattoo marks the body forever. It symbolizes a form of commitment through carefully drawn lines of black ink. To some, this is terrifying or even offensive, because once the needles push the ink into your skin, there's no going back. The lines, words, or pictures won't be removed; they will remain a part of your body even until you're old and wrinkly. To me, there are few things more unforgettable than a tattoo, which is why I chose this as my way to commemorate the four joy-filled years that my baby sister lived. Now, every morning when I'm getting dressed, I can turn my head to the mirror and see a reminder on my back of the mark Hannah left on my life. The date of her death is printed in small letters across the curve of an infinity shape, symbolizing a little girl who is forever in my heart and always has my back.

I know that choosing to permanently mark my body is a decision that some will disagree with -- that's usually the verdict with tattoos. I do it not because I want to fit in with the trend or because I was drunk one night and decided to make a random rash decision with my friends. I tattoo my body because there will be a day when I am placed in the ground for my body to no longer exist. My time on earth is only temporary, so what is stopping me from remembering the ones I love with a deep lasting memory?

Life is short, and I want to remember those who lived, loved, died, and continue to live on in my heart.

Cover Image Credit: Personal Image

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Not My Michigan

A Michigan student-athlete turned Registered Nurse on the Michigan Medicine contract negotiations in 2018.

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It's May 1st, 2016. I'm bright-eyed, eager, and graduating from the University of Michigan as a Nursing Student and Student-Athlete.

I am ready to take on the world the way that Michigan taught me how: fearlessly, compassionately, and wholeheartedly. I bleed blue. I know what it means to be a Wolverine and to represent the Michigan Difference in everything I do. I wear the block M on my School of Nursing scrubs and my Michigan Dance Team uniform well aware that it represents goodness, tradition, and excellence. I am determined. I am inspired. I am ready.

It's Monday, September 17th, 2018. What does Michigan mean to me now? I used to be so sure. Now, I simply don't know. So, what's the deal? How did my view on an institution become so indifferent in recent months?

I chose U of M to start my nursing career because it had the widely known reputation of putting its patients first, respecting its nurses, and providing the best care to patients in the state (5th in the country, to be exact). In my first year, as I was clumsily learning how to push patient stretchers, titrate intravenous vasopressors, and to communicate with the medical team, I proudly participated in our hospital's effort to achieve Magnet status.

When Nursing earned Magnet Status, an award given by the American Nurses' Credentialing Center and indicator of the strength and quality of Nursing at Michigan, I felt that same pride as I did in May of 2016.

I knew in my heart that I picked the best institution to develop my nursing practice and to give high quality, patient-centered care to anyone who walked, rolled, or was carried through the doors of Adult Emergency Services. The hospital's goals were aligned with mine and those around me. We put patients first, and more specifically, we put patients over profits.

I am lucky enough to work at a hospital that has been unionized for more than four decades. When I started working, the concept of a union was foreign to me. For those who may need a refresher, unions promote and protect the interests of all employees. They collectively bargain with employers to secure written agreements for employees regarding pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Collective bargaining agreements are legally enforceable contracts holding employers and employees to mutually agreed-to workplace rules and process to provide a fair and just workplace. The University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association, has been working diligently since January to bargain with the University of Michigan to protect me, the 5,700 nurses who work within the institution, and our patients. I'd like to think they're the good guys in this story.

Here's where things get sticky: David Spahlinger, president of our prestigious U of M health system, has publicly stated that Michigan is "committed to maintaining current staffing levels," but will not make this commitment in writing. Common sense is reflected in the most high-quality research on the topic of nurse-patient ratios and its direct effect on patient care.

Appropriate staffing allows me and my coworkers to give the quality of care that I know we have the ability to provide. High staffing levels are associated with reduced mortality, falls, medication errors, ulcers, restraint use and infections. Unregulated staffing is a significant barrier to nurses' abilities to provide optimal patient care and prevents Nursing at Michigan from providing what we know to be the Michigan Difference in healthcare.

UMPNC held voting on a work stoppage for unfair labor practices last week. Out of 4,000 votes cast by nurses at the U, 94% authorized a work stoppage in protest of the University's unfair labor practices. No date is set, but our elected nurse bargaining team now has the authority to call for action.

Thank you to Katie Oppenheim, who chairs our union, for reiterating in an article to the Detroit Free Press that a work stoppage is not our goal. "Our goal is a fair agreement which respects nurses and guarantees safe staffing. The university can remedy this situation immediately by stopping their unfair labor practices and bargaining in good faith."

I am proud to be a nurse and I hope that our efforts to keep Michigan a patients-over-profits institution are recognized at the community, state, and national level. Anne McGinity, David Spahlinger, and those who have the power to make Michigan the magical place I once thought it was, make like Nike and just do it. For the love of patients, nurses, and our great University. I know we are better than this.

(Stay Tuned, folks).

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Thinking About Your Future Is Hard

College is where you really have to start planning your future.

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Since I'm still an undergrad, I have some time to plan my life after college - that is my life once I graduate and get my Bachelor's.

When I first came to college, I didn't expect much out of what I'd do once I received my Bachelor's in Animal Science. I just assumed that I was going to go straight into vet school, become a veterinarian, and open my own practice.

Nope. Not today.

I, of course, switched my major to English so I could concentrate my skills in creative writing. I didn't know what I could do as a creative writer and everyone assumed I wanted to be a teacher. During my panic, I took several career assessments and found some similar career paths that appealed to me and now I have a plan. I'm not saying it's full proof but it's a plan nonetheless.

It's nerve-wracking trying to make sure you're on the correct path. So I'm planning to go to grad school and get a masters and then a Ph.D. It's just the process of applying and funding grad school makes me want to curl into a ball, in a corner, on my bed, and under the covers. My mind freezes whenever I have to think about the fact that I, Jacqulea Anderson, will be going to grad school once I graduate. Me. ME! It's mind-blowing because I have a clue as to what I want to pursue relating to my Master's but not for my Doctorate's. Creative writing has a master's program, but to get my Ph.D., I would have to just get it in English if I want to stay that route. Which adds to the stress of planning my life after college.

Everything changes: your mind, tastes, and wants change. They develop the older you get and once you realize you don't want to pursue your dream major, then it's back to the drawing board. While you can change your degree in grad school, it's also a good idea to have a slight clue as to what program you want to apply for.

Along the way, you figure out the adult part of life. Such as taxes, insurance, rent/mortgage, random bills, credit scores, and everything else under the sun because who actually taught us what we needed to know about adult living? You have to figure out where you want to live and if it's convenient enough distance wise from your job or school. There's just so much to factor in once you leave undergrad and you have a support system (hopefully) that will help guide you, but in the end, it's still you. You have to be the one to make the decisions on what you want to do with your life based on the choices you were given. If you can make your own choice then more power to you.

Life is hard. College is hard. Learning to be a functioning adult that has 85% of their life together is a dream I'm just trying to make come true.

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