The Bravest Nurse I’ve Never Met

October 27th, 2011

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By , BSN, RN

When I arrived to work at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in July of 2007, many of the staff at the hospital were still reeling at what had happened to one of their own. Carmen Blandin Tarleton, RN, a local woman and formerly a nurse at DHMC had recently been a patient there and the subject of much local news coverage. Her story has continued these past four years, and as both a nurse and human being she is worthy of the attention.

In the shortest telling, in June 2007 Tarleton's estranged husband broke into her home, beat her with a baseball bat, and dumped industrial-strength lye all over her, which ate away at least 80 percent of her skin. She suffers incredible pain, has lost much of her hearing and was blind for two years, although she can now see about 18 inches in front of her face. Tarleton's story has been widely covered, her recovery widely discussed and her bravery widely admired.

Now, Tarleton is a candidate for a face transplant. She is being considered for the groundbreaking surgery at Brigham and Women's in Boston, MA. Today, if you are reading this, on October 27, 2011, she is appearing on the syndicated TV show, The Doctors talking about her journey from victim to survivor, and for others, as an inspiration.

This past summer, Tarleton spoke to the Woodstock, VT chapter of the Rotary Club about her journey these past four years.

In this recording, Tarleton says she lost her career. While she may not work as a nurse any longer, she strikes me as a nurse, through and through. The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines nursing as "the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations."

Tarleton continues to promote and optimize her own health and serve as an inspiration to others similarly injured, and she is definitely an advocate: she speaks out on survival, the importance of support not just from family and friends but from community as well, and about forgiveness and its power to heal. Sounds like a nurse, to me.

I have not met Tarleton. I have not had the opportunity to speak with her either although I hope to sometime in the future. I do, however, know people who count her as a friend, neighbor and colleague. "Carmen was one year ahead of me in high school," Cate Hancock said. "When all this happened, I told my Mom that — having known her — if anyone could survive what happened, it was Carmen. Her life force is incredible."

See for yourselves.

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