National Nurses Week: Atlanta nurse takes patient care on the road

- Sharon Roberts spends her days navigating the Atlanta traffic, making house calls as a registered nurse with Visiting Nurse Health System. .

Her first call of the day is to Dr. Gemuh Akuchu of Chamblee, who was paralyzed 12-years ago when he had a stroke during a spinal surgery.

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For the next hour, the nurse and patient catch up, talking like old friends.

"He is the most positive, appreciative person," says Roberts.  "He has an amazing outlook on life."

Roberts tends to Akuchu's pressure wounds, and checks his catheter, while getting a glimpse inside his world.

"It's not just about dressing the wounds," Roberts says.  "It's about their nutrition, and what their support system is like, and maybe even how their faith plays into it."

As Roberts says goodbye, and heads to her next client,  she says, she feels like she's found her calling in life.

"I wanted to be a nurse from the time I was a little girl," she says. 

Her dad was a doctor, a medical missionary. 

"I used to see him doing things for people, and I had a real love for that," Roberts says. 

Now, it's her turn.  

On an average day, she'll visit a half dozen Visiting Nurse clients.

"It's a demanding job," Roberts says.  "Home care is very much on the go. I go from house to house.  You don't know what situation, in homecare especially, that you may walk into."

At the home of her next client, 88-year old Pura Novo, something unexpected.

Novo has a black eye, from a fall the day before.

So, Roberts checks her out, talking with Novo's daughter and caregiver Sabrina Novo Rivellese, who appreciates having a second set of eyes on her mom.

She also likes having Roberts come to them for her mom's care.

"At 88, and with the difficulties she's having, it's a lot to get her out," Rivellese says. "And, it's tiring for her."

But Roberts can manage most of Novo's medical care here at home, checking her vitals and cleaning and maintaining the central line in Novo's chest that delivers a heart drug she needs to stay alive.

Roberts also helps clients stay on top of their medications, and transition back into their homes after a hospital stay.  

Most of the time, she says, home care is covered by private insurers and Medicare and Medicaid, if it's deemed medically necessary and if the patient is homebound.

"I am just so blessed because I get to serve people," she says.  "Yeah, I get paid for it, it's a job, and that's great, too.  But I get to do something for people. And it's not about me. It's about them."

When it's time to go,  Sharon Roberts heads to her next client, and the next chance, she hopes, to make a difference.

"I'm so grateful that this is my job," Roberts says.  "I just love it."

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