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Nurses deliver a daily dose of caring

Parish Nurse Jean Riedasch, right, takes Leona Lindegren’s blood pressure Sunday morning at Concordia Lutheran Church in Superior. Most of her patients are congregation members she’s known for years. Riedasch said she enjoys being able to spend time with them and offer wholistic care. Maria Lockwood

Nurses stand on the frontline of health care.

"I think every day they go above and beyond what they have to do to make sure patients get what they need," said Kim Pearson, director of nursing for Essentia Health-St. Mary's of Superior.

"They do a lot more for us than many people realize," said Lyndi Sakuray, executive director of Northern Waters Parish Nurse Ministry. "They are the ones who are actively caring for all of us. We count on them, depend on them to get us through our difficult times and stay healthy."

"It takes a special person."

Late bloomer

Nursing chose Micah Jaesperson, but he waited 20 years to answer the call.

"I graduated high school in 1991," he said. "I wanted to do it then, but didn't because it wasn't cool back then for men to do it, at least back in Baltimore."

Instead, Jaesperson attended Northland College in Ashland for a biology degree, attracted by the area's outdoor activities. He met his wife there, and they moved to Washburn. Jaesperson made a living framing pictures and preserving artwork.

Then, his mother was diagnosed with cancer.

"My love for nursing was really revived," said Jaesperson, who now lives in Oulu. "I saw the nurses taking care of my mother."

When his mother died on Sept. 2, 2009, Jaesperson decided to answer the call.

"Whether it was cool or not ... life is too short."

He earned his registered nursing degree from Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College of Superior at the age of 41.

Jaesperson planned to focus on neonatal care, but was hooked when he spent time working at Essentia Health's Birthplace in Duluth

"I found myself unexpectedly loving it there," said Jaesperson, 44. "It chose me."

As a labor and delivery nurse, he spends his workdays guiding mothers through a very powerful time in their lives, helping them feel safe and establish a bond with their newborn.

"I can be a life-changer for them," the Oulu man said.

Gritty but rewarding

Working at a long-term care facility isn't for everyone, but there's no place Charity Wise would rather be.

"I'll be here forever; this is my life," said the licensed practical nurse from Cloquet. "I love it."

She recently took six days off from her job at Superior Health and Rehabilitation Center. That first day back was, she said, amazing.

"I missed it so much," said Wise, 25. "I love interacting with them, making them smile, listening to the things they say."

Wise was drawn to nursing at age 18. A teen mom — her son is now 11 — she faced challenges reaching her career goal, but persevered.

"If you have the heart for it, it's possible," Wise said.

As a senior at Superior High School, she took the certified nursing assistant course through WITC in Superior. After working as an assistant and medication aide, she enrolled in the school's LPN program. In December, Wise will graduate from WITC with an RN degree. Every step of the way she's worked at the rehabilitation center in Superior, finding a niche working with clients who have dementia.

"They're like a family to me," Wise said.

She enjoys hearing bits and pieces from their lives, finding ways to increase their comfort level and even advocating for them. It can be gritty work, Wise said, but it is rewarding. Unlike the traditional hospital setting, there's time to establish a relationship.

"I love this floor," Wise said. "This is what makes my life happy."

A life of caring

As far back as she can remember, Jean Riedasch has been keen on nursing.

"I think it's something I just always wanted to do," said the Superior native. "I was the kind of kid who would pick up baby birds and take care of them."

Riedasch earned her nursing degree in 1964 and retired from the profession as a clinical nursing instructor for WITC in 1999.

"One of the things I probably emphasized a lot is you're taking care of people, not a diagnosis," said Riedasch, 75.

She's still providing that human connection between patients and health care.

Sunday, at Concordia Lutheran Church, Riedasch took Leona Lindegren's blood pressure. The two women spent time chatting in the sunny office room, ending their visit with a hug.

Since retiring, Riedasch has put her talent for nursing to work as a parish nurse.

"You can put as much time as you want into each person," she said. "I can sit and listen to stories, I can hold their hand. I can give hugs, say a prayer with them."

When Riedasch was a child, health was defined as "the absence of disease or infirmity." As she started teaching, it was redefined to include a "state of complete physical and mental well-being." By the time she retired, it included "physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being."

As a parish nurse, she touches all those markers, the "whole package."

Northern Waters Parish Nurse Ministry trains and helps establish parish nurses in congregations throughout Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Barron and Sawyer counties.

"Parish nurses are a link between the hospital and community, a key link," Sakuray said.

Technology has changed and increased over the years, but the core of nursing hasn't.

"Gosh, you can't take away human connections," said Riedasch, who lives in the town of Oakland. "That's the best technology there is."

Giving thanks

National Nurses Week, which runs through Friday, is a time to recognize all that nurses do.

"They really are putting a lot of themselves into it; it's not just a paycheck," Riedasch said. "The majority of nurses are doing it because they love it, and they love helping people."

The nearly 100 nurses at Essentia Health-St. Mary's of Superior were treated to baskets of goodies Monday and ice cream bars today. Thursday, the parish nurse ministry will offer refreshments, fellowship, door prizes and more from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the hospital's courtyard room. All area nurses are invited to drop by.

Patients can make National Nurses Week special, too.

"I don't really expect a thank you," Jaesperson said. "Everyone just take good care of themselves, do what it takes to get better and stay out of the hospital."

Wise said she doesn't want a gift, just a long, successful career caring for others.

What kind of response is Riedasch hoping for?

"If they just simply said 'Thank you' and gave me a hug," she said. "I like hugs."

"I get a hug once in a while," Jaesperson said. "I really love the hugs."