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Mary Bridge Children’s providers inspire former patient to become a nurse: “I want to be the person my doctors and nurses were for me.”

Emily Busha is a familiar name on the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital medical-surgical floor. “I’ve been in and out of Mary Bridge my whole life,” Emily said.

By Kalyn Kinomoto

The 21-year-old from Port Orchard has a long history with, and deep connection to, the hospital.

Born with Total Colonic Hirschsprung’s Disease, a rare congenital condition that affects nerves in the colon and causes problems with the body’s ability to eliminate waste, Emily spent much of her infancy and toddlerhood as an inpatient at Mary Bridge Children’s. After four surgeries, including an ileostomy and reversal all before she was in preschool, Emily’s care continued off and on for the next 10 years—or as she says, every time she got sick.

Emily and an infant in the hospital with her brother Tyler by her side

“Growing up, I knew that any time I caught a stomach bug or flu, it meant going back to the hospital,” Emily recalls. When kids with Hirschsprung’s get sick, they can get dehydrated quickly and often need IV treatment and support in the hospital.

Hirschsprung’s Disease is more common in those with Trisomy 21 or Downs syndrome, and it also tends to present more frequently in males. Emily’s diagnosis was rare, especially paired with Neuronal Intestinal Dysplasia. Even rarer? Emily’s older brother, Tyler, had the exact same diagnoses and neither are affected by Downs syndrome.

Emily’s mom, Lisa Busha, said that their family spent so much time at Mary Bridge Children’s, that it felt like home. “If nurses saw Tyler or Emily’s name on the charts from the Emergency Department, one of them would always run down and greet us because they knew we’d be moving up to inpatient. It always felt a little bit like a homecoming,” Lisa said.

Tyler and Emily were both admitted to Mary Bridge Children's and shared a room

A family affair.

“Because my brother received care at Mary Bridge a couple of years before I did, all of the nurses already knew our family,” Emily said. “They were like family to us!”

At one point, both Tyler and Emily were admitted at the same time and shared a hospital room. Their personalities were so different and Lisa remembers how encouraging it was that the care teams individualized treatment plans to fit the unique needs of both kids independently, even though they were from the same family, in the same room, with the same diseases. Lisa said it’s those little things that made a big difference to their family.

Life with two medically fragile kids kept Emily’s parents busy and exhausted, but their love and dedication to their kids was evident to Mary Bridge Children’s staff and left a lasting impression on Nicole Geffrey, RN, one of Emily’s nurses.

“I vividly remember Emily’s father,” said Nicole. “He taught me the best way to apply an ostomy bag. Parents who have kids with chronic conditions often find tricks or better ways to use medical devices because they’re dealing with these situations at home every day.”

Emily hugging her stuffed animal and sleeping in the hospital

Derrek Busha’s technique was so good that Nicole said she still uses it today, both in her day-to-day work with patients and also when she’s training peers on ostomy bag application.

Reconnecting years later.

Emily is thriving, thanks to the team of experts who cared for her years ago.

She wanted to give back and was interested in working at the hospital, so she contacted another one of her former nurses, Jodi Gragg, MN, RN, CPN, about any opportunities at Mary Bridge Children’s. Jodi was a student nurse and had taken care of both Tyler and Emily; she now serves as the hospital’s Associate Chief Nurse Executive.

The stars aligned and Emily was invited to interview for a nurse tech position.

“The first question they asked me was if they could talk to my mom,” Emily remembered. “That was such a special interaction and it’s one of my favorite memories. The fact that they still remembered my parents was just so amazing.”

It had been years since Jodi and Lisa had seen each other, but the connection they formed years ago when Tyler and Emily were little made this impromptu reunion special.

Coming full circle.

Emily got that nurse tech job and began her journey as an employee at Mary Bridge Children’s a little over a year ago. She works on the medical-surgical unit—the same floor where she and Tyler used to be patients. Her former nurses, like Jodi and Nicole, are now her colleagues.

“It’s a little weird to work where I grew up, but I feel so honored to be here and I truly love what I get to do,” Emily said. Some days, she’s starting IVs or taking vitals, other days she’s playing with kids in Piper’s Playroom or sitting with patients while parents grab coffee.

Nicole said she’s so proud of Emily and is honored that she wanted to come back to work at Mary Bridge Children’s. “I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago that Emily was the same Emily I had as a patient back in 2001,” Nicole said. “When we figured it out, I was so surprised. She took a picture of us together and sent it to her parents—it’s so great!”

Nicole Geffrey, RN, and Emily posing for a picture together

One of Emily’s favorite things about the job is when she meets patients who have Hirschsprung’s, because she’s able to share a bit about her personal Mary Bridge Children’s journey with them.

Emily is a senior at Seattle Pacific University and is graduating with honors in June with a BSN degree. She said that hands-down, her Mary Bridge Children’s doctors and nurses were major influences on her decision to pursue a career in pediatric nursing.

“It’s really cool to see these kids grow up into adults and witness how their experience during hospitalizations shapes how they show up to care for their own patients,” Jodi said.

“You never know who you will inspire.”

“As a patient, you quickly realize the level of passion that goes into medicine and how it truly is a calling,” Emily said. “I feel like this is my calling too—I want to be the person that my doctors and nurses were for me.”

As she nears graduation, Emily hopes to continue working at Mary Bridge Children’s alongside the people who helped care for her and her family.

Jodi said Emily’s story and journey shows the impact providers can have on patients and families: “You never know who you will inspire.”

With her unique perspective as both a patient and an employee, what’s one thing that Emily would like every family to know?

“I want everyone to know that Mary Bridge Children’s loves kids … but more importantly, we all really, truly love your kid!”

The Busha family, from left: Lisa, Derrek, Emily and Tyler

Thank you to all our nurses, like Jodi and Nicole, who work tirelessly day-in and day-out to make a difference in the lives of our patients. Your care goes beyond physical healing and we’re grateful for your impact and dedication!