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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Things are looking up for Amanda Ericson of Keene. Suffering from a brain tumor at the age of four, she graduated recently from Rivier College's nursing program. Now, the RN will be working in the same unit she she was hospitalized in at Dartmouth Hitchcock.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    She spent a lot of time studying in Sylvia Trottier Hall. Suffering from a brain tumor at the age of four, Amanda Ericson of Keene, graduated recently from Rivier College's nursing program. Now, the RN will be working in the same unit she she was hospitalized in at Dartmouth Hitchcock.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    She will be able to tell some of her patients she knows what they feel like. Suffering from a brain tumor at the age of four, Amanda Ericson of Keene, graduated recently from Rivier College's nursing program. Now, the RN will be working in the same unit she she was hospitalized in at Dartmouth Hitchcock.
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rivier grad to work where tumor treated

Michael Brindley

The memories are foggy, but Amanda Ericson remembers enough to know she was scared.

Four years old at the time, Ericson remembers going to a clinic in Keene, where she grew up, because she was feeling sick and had a fever. She remembers going into a room, where a nurse put a cool cloth on her head.

Then, the lights went out.

“I don’t know if that was actually the nurse turning the lights out, or me having the grand mal seizure,” said Ericson, now 22.

Doctors discovered Ericson had a brain tumor; the medical term was oligodendrocytoma. The diagnosis was dire.

The tumor had progressed to the point where she was only given a 5 percent chance of survival.

She was transported to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon to have it removed. The surgery was successful, but Ericson woke up confused. All her hair had been cut off. She had to relearn how to walk.

Eighteen years later, Ericson’s life has come full circle in more ways than one. This past weekend, she graduated from Rivier College in Nashua with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

In the fall, she will start her career as a registered nurse in the children’s hospital unit at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the same unit where she was treated as a child.

She was selected from 250 applicants for the job.

For Ericson, working with children, some of whom may have to battle the same thing she did, just made sense.

“I want to go back up there to give back what they gave to me – life, essentially,” she said. “I’m not that much of a religious person, but I believe everything happens for a reason. I feel the reason why I’m still here and why certain other things haven’t worked out is because this is what I’m supposed to do.”

This won’t be Ericson’s first experience working in the children’s unit at Dartmouth-Hitchcock; it’s also where she served her nursing clinical as a senior.

Ericson said the placement was chance, but the experience confirmed her passion for nursing. Things seemed to fit a little too perfectly, especially when she found out her preceptor specialized in pediatric oncology.

She put in 100 hours working in the unit, but she wanted more.

“By the end of it, I definitely was able to see myself grow up there a lot,” she said.

Working in the same place where she went through her own ordeal brought back some painful memories. One of the patients she treated was a 16-year-old girl who was constantly sick and having severe headaches. Ericson said the only reason her brain tumor was caught in time was because she finally went to the doctor for her headaches.

“As I’m caring for her, it was almost a flashback of the whole thing I had when I was little,” she said.

The doctors planned on running CT scans, and Ericson spent time supporting the girl’s mother, who never left her daughter’s bedside. Ericson was never able to find out what happened with the girl or what her diagnosis was.

“To this day, I kind of wish I had,” she said.

Judi O’Hara, an instructor in Rivier College’s nursing program, described Ericson as passionate about nursing. O’Hara advised Ericson during her time at the college. Ericson was a member of the college’s student nurse association.

O’Hara said it’s common for nursing students to have to deal with an illness, either to a family member or friend, or, as was the case with Ericson, to themselves.

“So many times when we read the admission letters, future nurses will write about a brother or sister or maybe a mom who died of cancer,” O’Hara said. “It could also be a nurse that took care of them made them want to be a nurse, too.”

Sandra Harrington, also a nursing professor at Rivier, worked with Ericson during her clinical at Dartmouth-Hitchock and said it’s the perfect fit for someone who cares so deeply about helping children.

Ericson has been working full time as a night nurse at Applewood Nursing Home in Winchester and has been commuting to Rivier her senior year. She also worked for five years as a nursing assistant for children with severe mental and health disabilities at Cedarcrest Center in Keene.

Now, she can’t wait to get started at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, a return to where her own life was saved so she can help save others.

“Ever since my own experience, my entire life I said I was going to be a pediatric nurse and it was going to be there,” Ericson said.

The Learning Curve appears Thursdays in The Telegraph. Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or mbrindley@nashuatelegraph.com.