Atlanta, GA,
08:06 AM

From Patient Back to Nurse

When Hannah Anderson was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, her career as a nurse was put on hold. Now, she is reigniting her career at the place that helped her regain her independence.

Hannah Anderson graduated from nursing school at the University of Memphis in May 2022 and quickly began her career as a NICU nurse, caring for sick and premature infants. Just a few months later, she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves. In Hannah’s case, it affected her hand dexterity, grip strength, endurance, and balance – all things she needs to be a nurse. On November 18, she arrived at Shepherd Center’s Comprehensive Rehabilitation Unit (CRU) to begin her rehabilitation with the ultimate goal of returning to work.

Among other skills, Hannah’s therapy team incorporated tasks she’d need at her job into her rehabilitation. She worked on an infant mannequin patient to practice skills like swaddling, changing diapers, and infant CPR. She also worked on an adult mannequin patient in Shepherd’s simulation lab to practice skills like opening packages, managing trachs, and placing IVs.

On December 23, 2022, Hannah discharged from Shepherd, just in time to celebrate Christmas with her family at home in Memphis, Tennessee. While she still used a trach to breathe and was aphonic (unable to speak) due to a surgery she needed to have, Hannah regained most of her function and independence. She continued outpatient occupational therapy and eventually underwent three surgeries to reconstruct her vocal cords and trachea in November 2023. After about a year of being unable to speak, Hannah regained her voice.

Along her journey, she had a realization about herself and her career path.

“I realized it would be beneficial to return to work in an area where my experience would impact the people I worked with. And for me, that meant coming to work at Shepherd Center on CRU,” Hannah explains.

She pursued her dream and interviewed for a position as a nurse on CRU at the end of last year. Happily, she was hired, moved to Atlanta, and officially started on Sunday, January 28. She is even working alongside one of the nurses who helped her when she was a patient – Suzie Goggin, RN, CRRN.

“It’s amazing to be able to look back and see how far I’ve come,” Hannah says. “Even though something negative happened to me, I gained new experiences, perspectives, and friends. I hope my story brings a little bit of hope to my patients at Shepherd Center and serves as an example that there is so much good left, even after a difficult experience.”

Written by Damjana Alverson

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.