A Nurse's Story of Giving and Receiving

Melissa Paulson-Conger, MS, RN clinical nurse specialist (left), and Donna Johnson, RN, BSN, program coordinator for the Spinal Cord Injury Program.

In less than one week she went from being an average 16-year-old who walked to school every day to being paralyzed and on a ventilator. Diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a relatively rare neurological disorder, she didn’t know if she would live much less walk again.

After weeks in intensive care and rehabilitation, the physicians, therapists and nurses who cared for Melissa helped restore her health.   

That experience sparked an interest in neurological medicine that led Melissa to nursing school and a career at the same hospital that saved her life. In 2007 she earned her master’s degree with the assistance of Froedtert Hospital. Froedtert supports the education of many entry-level staff who return to school to pursue nursing degrees and current nurses working for advanced degrees.

"I still remember a doctor standing over me saying, ‘You’re a very sick little girl.’ Luckily my local doctor transferred me to Froedtert Hospital, which even shortly after it opened in 1980 was known as the region’s best for neurological care. Now my story has come full circle.”
- Melissa Paulson-Conger, Neuroscience Clinical Nurse Specialist

Now a Neuroscience Clinical Nurse Specialist, Melissa works side-by-side with some of the nurses who cared for her 23 years ago, like Donna Johnson, program coordinator for the Spinal Cord Injury Program.

“I remember the PM shift nurse, Jeannine Lemley, who still works here. She held my hand the entire time while I had this plethora of doctors and nurses working on me because I was slowly ‘crashing’ as I would say now,” Melissa recalls. “Because my mom couldn’t be there, she was the next best thing.

”Melissa sees that same compassion and commitment throughout the hospital today. She agreed to let the Froedtert Hospital Foundation feature her story in its 2008 year-end appeal letter to give back to those who give so selflessly to others. She knows first-hand the difference the scholarship fund makes. 

“There are these bright and wonderful and talented people here who want to stay at the bedside and want to be able to advance themselves,” Melissa says. “From what I’ve experienced, Froedtert Hospital has given me the drive to be who I am today and has shaped who I am. To support that kind of environment is to ultimately support people in their time of greatest need and vulnerability.”


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