Candice's story

Patient Experience

Candice went into labor and was admitted to the hospital. Within a couple of hours, she said she just didn’t feel like herself, but she couldn’t communicate what was wrong. “I didn’t have the capacity to tell anyone what I was feeling.”

From caregiver to patient

The nursery was ready. Baby Jack’s white crib was assembled. His nautical décor was in place. Mom’s childhood dresser had been converted into the perfect changing station. And the glider where Candice Jenkins had dreamed of rocking her baby stood ready in the corner. It was in that very spot that Candice’s husband, Bill, comforted his wife after an early miscarriage.

“I will never forget his words," Candice said. “He said, ‘one day you will sit right here, rocking our baby and looking out the window at the horses.’ And he was right.”

But wow, what a journey it was to get there. Candice was a nurse at Vidant Medical Center, so she knew what to expect going into the hospital.  At least, she thought she knew.

Candice went into labor and was admitted to the hospital. Within a couple of hours, she said she just didn’t feel like herself, but she couldn’t communicate what was wrong. “I didn’t have the capacity to tell anyone what I was feeling.”

About 12 hours in, her entire body was contracting. When she was able to tell her health care team about the intense pain, she was told it was normal and that some people tolerate labor better than others. But as the hours ticked by, Candice’s family began to notice a change in the mom-to-be too, both physically and mentally. “They said, ‘this is definitely not our daughter. This is not my wife. What’s going on?’”

The nurse listened. She took Candice’s temperature. It was 106 degrees. The nurse immediately called Dr. William Taft, one of Candice’s doctors. The team worked to get her fever down, but nothing helped. Candice and baby Jack were in distress.

An emergency C-section saved both mom and baby’s life. Baby Jack was completely healthy, and for a few moments, the team thought Candice was going to be just fine, too. She went from surgery to recovery, with her family getting regular updates. Word was sent to Bill that he could finally come and see Candice. He was mere steps away from her door when he heard the “Code Blue” come over the speakers.

Bill looked on as a nurse started CPR on his wife. The code lasted an hour and six minutes. “The doctors and nurses never stopped,” Candice said. “I am so thankful. One of the nurses told me later that she overheard one of the doctors say ‘She just had a baby, and we’re not giving up.’”

The team got Candice back, and her heart started to beat on its own. She had lost 60 percent of her blood and had to be intubated. Because of their medical background, Candice’s parents knew the dangers of a code lasting that long. They knew what to expect when they saw their daughter for the first time. Bill, however, wasn’t prepared for all the machines. He wasn’t prepared for the swelling of Candice’s body. And he certainly wasn’t prepared for the decision he would soon be asked to make.

As the days went by, Candice became septic. Her body simply wasn’t doing well. There was a massive collaboration between the health care team at Vidant Health and the team at Greenville OB/GYN. What was wrong with Candice? Her white blood cell count remained elevated. Her liver was starting to show signs of impairment. She was in acute renal failure. After looking at all the facts, Dr. Frank Gay had a hunch.

Gay recognized Candice’s symptoms as those associated with Strep A blood infection. It’s uncommon in the U.S. and has a high mortality rate. Gay and Taft got on the phone with experts from other health systems and established a plan of care. Candice needed surgery. And the health care team needed Bill’s permission to do it.

Doctors told Bill the surgery was invasive, and there was a strong possibility that Candice would not survive the procedure. They also said she wouldn’t make it through the weekend without the surgery.

“I wanted a big family,” Candice said. “I wanted to have children. It took me many years to finally be able to have Jack. And here my husband is faced with the decision to authorize a life-saving operation that would mean we would have no more children, but my husband did what he knew he had to do.”

Candice survived the surgery, but her road to recovery was not a smooth one.

“When I woke up, and I couldn’t move my arms and fingers, and I couldn’t remember short term things, it was a shock. I didn’t even remember having our baby, and that was devastating. You wait your whole life, and then you can’t even remember it.”

Candice was weak and had many neurological issues. She needed help with simplest activities; activities we take for granted. She couldn’t hold her baby or feed herself. “I couldn’t even hold a toothbrush or brush my own hair,” she said. “And then it dawned on me. The nurse had become the patient.

“We think we know because we work with patients every day, what it means to be a patient,” Candice continued. “But I learned a lot.”

She also gained a new respect for care partners and environmental service professionals. “They’d come in with a smile on their face. And it was such a breath of fresh air. And they didn’t ask me how I was -- I didn’t want them to. They’d just come in humming a song or ask me if about ‘oh did you see this on the TV?’ … And it seems so little, but they took me beyond those [hospital] walls.”

And there is one person in particular who Candice will probably never know, but she says this person made a “remarkable impact in my life and my recovery.” Everyone in the hospital wears gloves, and as a nurse, Candice knows why. “In mind, though, it was hard,” she said. “I felt icky. I felt gross. I felt like nobody could touch me.” Then one night, her “angel” entered the room.

“I don’t think she realized that I was awake,” Candice said. “She put her bare hand on me, and she said ‘girl, God has a plan for you.’ And whether that person, that angel, realizes it or not, I to this day, hear her. I had every reason to recover. I had a new baby. I had a husband. I had a career. But none of that was able to push me enough. But that angel telling me God had a plan for me made me not want to give up. Every time I wanted to quit, I heard her.”

As she gained back her strength and started to get well, Candice completed her master’s degree and is now a nurse educator and instructor for East Carolina University.  

“I’m compelled to incorporate my experience so future patients can receive the help they need and get the care they deserve,” Candice said. “If there’s anything I want my students to take from me, it is compassion and patience. I want them to remember why they went into the field to begin with. I think we all start out wanting to help and something happens along the way where we get into a clock-in and clock-out mode. I want to teach my students to show compassion, to be in the moment. Your patients know when you are not in the moment.”

And to Candice, all her moments are blessings.

Jack just turned two, and she and Bill are busy making family memories with him. She’s finally able to care for and ride her horses again. “Life is good,” she said. “I wake up in the morning, and I am so appreciative. I appreciate the sunny days. I appreciate the rainy days. It takes a little rain sometimes to make the sun come out.”
Share:
“I’m compelled to incorporate my experience so future patients can receive the help they need and get the care they deserve.” Candice Jenkins
Patient Experience