ROCKFORD - As a nurse, Trevor Nelson knows that you can learn a lot about a patient's heart just by listening to it. But a stethoscope can't capture the healing that comes through laughter and conversation.
Trevor and Sandy Wallace have been a team at SwedishAmerican's heart hospital in Rockford for years.
"We work together on a daily basis," laughed Sandy. But their relationship goes back farther then Trevor's employment. It goes back to a time when a heart beat changed everything.
"Shortness of breath and kind of a pounding sensation in my chest," described Trevor. At just 20 years old, Trevor needed a new aortic valve.
"Pretty terrified," said Trevor about the surgery. "I dealt with a lot of anxiety."
But he was thankful. Trevor's need for surgery was not a surprise after a routine physical when he was 12 led to the discovery of his congenital heart defect.
"A lot of people with my specific diagnosis don't find out until a later date and then they have to go [immediately] through the surgery. Me, I had 10 years to kind of prepare for the surgery."
So during the summer of his Sophomore year of nursing school, the student became the patient, and his now coworker, was then his nurse.
"I met Trevor on the outpatient cardiac rehab, this young little kid over with our patients," said Sandy with a smile. "He was phenomenal even back then."
Years later, Sandy says Trevor carries that patient perspective with him to each bedside they visit, offering up inspiration to those whose hearts are heavy with worry.
"These people are very vulnerable when we're seeing them especially in the critical area right after surgery," explained Sandy. "Their whole life is up in the air and it's like, 'Wow, what's going to happen? Will life ever be normal,' and you send in someone like Trevor and it's like, 'Oh, okay! I can do it.'"
Making the journey more bearable for patients as Trevor shares smiles that can only come straight from the heart.
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