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Amelia as a child in a hospital bed with no hair

“I’ve wanted to work [at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta] since I was three.” — Amelia Ballard

Amelia Ballard continues her fight against cancer

In 1994, when she was only 17 months old, Amelia Ballard (‘15) was admitted into the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, where she would spend most of the next four years in two grueling battles with cancer. In 2015, after graduating with a nursing degree from Georgia Southern, she returned to the hospital as a nurse, helping other kids win the same fight.

A cancer survivor for more than 22 years, Ballard can’t recall everything about her bouts with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, but she remembers that the experiences led her to a very specific dream as early as three years old—to be a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta (CHOA). And even though the hospital was the source of years of aggressive treatment, including intense radiation and a painful bone marrow transplant, she says it was the close relationships with her nurses she remembers most.

“Nursing is much more than the pokes, you know,” she said. “You develop those relationships with your patients, and the nurses spent a lot of time with me, and when I was having a good moment or a good day they respected that. And they really became more like a family when we were there than anything else.”

Amelia in scrubs with a stethoscope around her neckBallard says even though getting her nursing degree often seemed like an impossible task, she enjoyed her time at Georgia Southern. In the classroom, she learned from professors like Crystal Edds-McAfee, DNP, RN, who had also worked at CHOA and taught pediatrics. Outside the classroom, Ballard worked at Camp Twin Lakes, a year-round camp for children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and other life challenges, which only reinforced her desire to pursue pediatric care.

All of her hard work came to fruition in 2015. While she was still finishing her clinicals, she found an opening at CHOA for a patient care technician in the ER. She applied, and was called back for an interview soon after. The same day of her interview, only hours after she’d returned home, she received the call telling her she’d gotten the job. In 2016, she accepted a position as an RN in the emergency department.

“I’ve wanted to work there since I was three,” she said. “I definitely cried because that was a huge milestone in my life, a huge goal that was almost a dream that I didn’t know was attainable until it happened…. So that was a big, big moment for me and my family.”

When asked if she feels like the ordeal was worth it, Ballard doesn’t see it like that. She doesn’t focus on the painful procedures that marked her years of treatment. She remembers her parents playing games with the gloves and masks that were required to interact with her, and the nurses who let her push the plunger to flush her I.V. and bandage the boo-boos on her stuffed animals. And it’s that perspective that she wants to bring to her patients.

“I like to stand on the positive side of things and kind of see how far my family and I have come through it…,” she said. “I want to make sure to try and instill some hope into these kiddos and their parents while I’m taking care of them.”

Taking care of them—not only like a nurse, but also like family.

 Doy Cave