Monday, November 19, 2018
by John Twombly • firstname.lastname@example.org
SLCH | A nurse orientee in the St. Louis Children’s Hospital OR suite underwent 50 of her 71 surgeries at SLCH as a patient.
Courtney Mangin, 25, joined SLCH in July. Growing up, the hospital was her second home.
“They told my mom I probably wouldn’t make it; my chances of survival were one in a million,” she says. “Doctors told her I probably wouldn’t live past age 1. Then they said age 5. Then 10. They said that if I were to live, I wouldn’t walk, talk or breathe on my own.”
Considering what she faced, her level of functionality today and upbeat, can-do spirit seem miraculous.
“Courtney proved overcoming ‘impossible’ challenges is possible with hard work and dedication,” says her mother, Kim Harmon. “She keeps a positive, optimistic attitude.”
Born five weeks early, she weighed 3 pounds. Her birth defects included failure to thrive, spina bifida, scoliosis, clubfoot, short gut syndrome and cloacal exstrophy (a rare condition that leaves many inner-abdominal structures exposed).
The first surgery came when she was just two days old.
Today, the most visible evidence of these conditions is a leg brace Mangin wears. One leg is shorter than the other, and the brace helps her stand and balance.
She calls the brace her “lucky fin,” after the one in the movie, “Finding Nemo.” The cartoon fish also had a lucky fin, as one of his fins was shorter than the other since birth.
That’s the inspiration for one of Mangin’s mottos, “Keep on swimming.”
“Courtney does not bathe in self-pity,” says her surgeon, Douglas Coplen, MD, pediatric urology director.
In the past year, however, her lifetime goal almost went under.
Pursuing her dream
Mangin always wanted to be a nurse at SLCH.
“This is my second home, my second family,” she says. “It’s where I belong. I want to give back to the nurses, doctors, surgeons and everybody here who gave me excellent care.
“I also want to give parents hope and reassure them. Their child may be chronically ill, but they can do whatever they put their mind to.”
She credits a strong family support system and her mother’s attitude for her perseverance. Her mother often says, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.”
Which leads to another motto Mangin follows, “Instead of impossible, it’s I’m possible.”
Her life adversities and triumphs appear in a book called “Born Twice: Voices of Spina Bifida.” Dozens of individuals and families touched by the condition shared their stories.
Growing up, Mangin didn’t realize she was vastly different from everyone else. She just knew she was sick and needed surgery every summer to get better.
She did everything she put her mind to: hiking, swimming, cheerleading and traveling. She earned her driver’s license, worked at Six Flags and volunteered as a teacher’s aide for her mother, who teaches first grade.
Then came nursing school. Health setbacks derailed her studies at Chamberlain College of Nursing.
She took time off for three surgeries and a foot infection.
“My mom told me, ‘College isn’t a race. You’ll get done when you get done.’ I kept telling myself, ‘In order to heal others, I need to heal myself.’”
Mangin graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing in April, a year after her classmates. Her motto, “Keep on swimming,” appeared on top of her graduation cap.
Mangin cherishes life, educating and inspiring others.
“It’s great to see Courtney already connecting with her patients,” says Zach McDuffie, OR assistant nurse manager. “We’ve had some really positive feedback from patients and their families.”
She volunteers for the United Ostomy Associations of America, visiting Saint Louis University to educate nursing students about ostomies. Ostomy surgery, a lifesaving procedure, allows bodily waste to pass through a surgically created opening. For most ostomies, a pouch worn over the opening collects waste.
“Courtney helps nurses see how important it is to see us as people with feelings and stories,” says Mary Beth Akers, president of the United Ostomy Association of St. Louis. “She adds a special perspective with her nursing background and her ostomy since near birth. She is an inspiration just by being there.”
Mangin also volunteers as a counselor for Youth Rally. It’s a week-long overnight summer camp for kids ages 11-17 with bowel and bladder issues.
She attended the camp when she was 12, and it helped her outlook. The camp promotes independence, self-esteem, learning, friendship and fun.
With a passion for ostomy care and education, her ultimate goal is to become a wound ostomy continence nurse.
“She has great insight from a patient perspective,” Dr. Coplen says. “She’s starting from square one from a professional perspective.”
Mangin starts another endeavor facing more challenges than most.
“Having spina bifida and other conditions made me, me,” Mangin says. “It hasn’t been easy, but every scar, struggle, hospital stay and doctor visit has made me a better nurse.”
Number of views (2344)/Comments (17)
11/19/2018 9:12 AM
It's always wonderful to hear about such inspiring people. Keep on swimming, Courtney!
11/19/2018 10:07 AM
You go, girl. So happy for you! Keep on swimming :)
11/19/2018 12:19 PM
What a wonderful story! You will be a GREAT nurse, thank you for your dedication. Keep on Swimming.
11/20/2018 10:41 AM
I had the pleasure of meeting Courtney with KSDK-NBC a few months ago. She is such a rock star and we appreciate her sharing her story! https://www.ksdk.com/article/news/local/storytellers/after-71-surgeries-shes-now-a-nurse-working-in-the-operating-room/63-599920063
11/20/2018 1:28 PM
What an inspiring person you are! I worked with a woman whose granddaughter has cystic fibrosis. Despite her disease, she reached her goal of becoming an ICU nurse.
11/20/2018 3:57 PM
What an uplifting story! Having spent a lot of time as a child in children's hospitals myself due to a birth defect, this means a lot! Many thanks to Courtney for being willing to share her story and her inspiring attitude!
11/20/2018 4:08 PM
Wonderful! Congratulations! You are an inspiration.
11/21/2018 12:07 PM
What an inspirational journey you've had. Congratulations ! Follow your dreams and let nothing stop you. Continue to share your story.
11/23/2018 10:19 AM
Nurses are incredible! Wouldn't mind being one myself. Definitely something to look up to. Wishing her all the best of luck and many blessings.
11/27/2018 11:12 AM
Thank you for sharing your story. You are such an inspiration. You chose not to sit and feel sorry for yourself . Your can do attitude will hopefully rub off on to others. God bless you richly and keep up the great work. You are one awesome nurse I am sure!!!
11/27/2018 3:22 PM
Thank you for sharing your story. I wish that everyone that complains about small things would read this story.
11/29/2018 9:25 AM
This. Is. Beautiful. Life always has purpose!
11/29/2018 1:07 PM
What a wonderful story of perseverance and achievement. Go Courtney!
11/29/2018 10:32 PM
You go girl!
I too was born prematurely. ....
I was 10 wks. early. In 1963, at 3 lbs.
My parents refused to transfer me to a"BIG" hospital, so I stayed where I was born until I reached 5 lbs. ( about 3 months).
I have Cerebral Palsy, but I have been a Surgical Technologist since 1983. A job that involves standing, and walking about 6 miles a day. The trick is to never accept "can't ".
12/1/2018 6:34 PM
you are so blessed and keep being a blessing to others. Swim on girl!!!
12/3/2018 10:36 AM
I love love to hear good ending stories, it just do my heart good. I will share your story with others.
12/5/2018 3:32 PM
Amazing story, keep swimming Courtney. You are a breath of fresh air