The 21-year-old certified nursing assistant who is currently working at Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital in Frankfort, Mich., said her visit to Cleveland this past summer convinced her that this is where she wants to live.
“From my first visit to Tennessee I immediatly felt a sense of sincerity and warmth from everyone I met and talked to — even passerbys at the Atlanta airport seemed friendly!” she said. “I love my friends, family and job in Michigan, but I have never felt the sense of community friendliness I felt when I visited the South and Cleveland this past summer.
“All the Southern states I have been to have been beautiful — so lush and green with so many neat mountains and rivers and valleys — I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to live there!”
Meachum explained how she made a plan to make her move out of a small town up North to become a marketable career woman with plans of moving south.
“It all began with a simple browse in the classifieds. Honestly, I feel like a lot of new beginnings, autobiographies, unusual or unlikely encounters result from a quick dance of the eyes across the classifieds,” she said.
“It was a desperate discovery — me sitting in my parents’ kitchen, broke, unemployed and so terribly sick of witnessing others enjoy evenings on the town when I couldn’t even afford gas to get to the next job interview. I scanned the help wanted ads to no avail. I sat there unqualified, uninterested and ready for a punch in the gut.
“Needing a change, the ad for a nursing assistant educational course caught my attention. Four weeks and $875 later, I was a certified nursing assistant and newly hired in a field I never saw coming. It sounds clichéd to say that it all happened so fast, but yes, it happened so fast.
“Before I realized it, I was changing adult diapers and feeding pureed food to dementia residents. But it’s much much more than that! I find it honorable to say that I began the more exciting chapter in my life in the Long Term Care floor of a hospital.”
Meachum wrote about her experience as a certified nursing assistant and decided to share her writing with the public. Here are excerpts from her autobiographical essay.
“It was a Sunday night, my third day in a row working those long shifts at the hospital. Marie, our more needy resident, was at it again. ‘Please, I have to piddle. Will you take me to the potty?’ We had all tried to reason with her, it was the same as always, ‘No Marie, we just took you.’ But it was as if we spoke to someone deaf.
“‘Please, I have to go potty,’ she continued, sounding increasingly despairing and hopeless. HIPPA laws forbid me from seeing her actual medical charts, as they do not pertain directly to my position. However, she exhibits all the signs of dementia. Marie asks to use the bathroom approximately every 43 seconds. You could time this woman with an atomic clock and I have reason to believe she would impress you with her promptness as she time after time asked you again and again and again.
“Marie has another problem — her short term memory fails her. This makes it necessary for her to rely on the one thing she could always depend on: The need to use the restroom. Because of her condition, she forgets instantly where she’s at and what she’s doing. Often distressed and confused, she says the only thing she can remember — ‘I have to piddle!’
“Dealing with dementia patients was something I’ve learned to enjoy and see the humor in. In fact, without humor, you really couldn’t deal with the emotional toll such a job takes on you. The humor in this situation is that Marie, even when on the toilet will ask to use the bathroom. I have to kindly remind her, ‘Marie, dear, you can relieve yourself now if you need to go, you are on the toilet.’
“It all comes with the job — the laughing, the listening, even the crying as I learned to love and lose many grateful residents. Four weeks and I got the lesser-esteemed privilege of touching the lives of those in their final years. What is more, however, is how my life continues to be touched one eight-hour shift at a time.
“It’s only been five months at this job and I know it’s the most excitement one can have while helping others. Sure, it’s at times disgusting, humiliating, unfortunate and heartbreaking. But the moments of sheer adoration, appreciation, even admiration for those with whom I serve makes it all worthwhile and wills me to continue on in this moving career.”
Meachum said it is her hope to move her career South in the near future and continue in her “moving career” of caring for nursing home residents, which she has grown to love and enjoy.