While in high school, the now-27-year-old Chrissy Thell spent summers guiding canoe trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
She would be deep in the wilderness, miles from the nearest road or any other sort of civilization, when lo and behold, someone in her group would get hurt.
Chrissy Thell chatted last week in one of the seven operating rooms at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd. Thell works as a surgical nurse, caring for patients before, during and after surgeries. She also is the robotics coordinator, educating hospital staff on the da Vinci surgical system (shown behind her).
Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey
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The most serious injury, Thell remembers, was when a girl dislocated her knee. The nearest road was two days away and the girl was in a lot of pain. With no other options, Thell and another guide used the icy lake water to numb the girl's leg before popping it back into place.
"I remember talking her through it, pumping her up for it," Thell said of comforting the girl before popping the joint back into place.
It was that experience that made Thell realize she wanted to be a nurse.
Background: Born in Brainerd, grew up in Crosslake, 1999 Pequot Lakes High School graduate. Now lives in Breezy Point with her family.
Family: Husband, David Thell, works at Brothers Motorsports as a service technician. Children are Elijah, 6, Maggie, 3, and Hannah, 1.
The wedding: Chrissy and David Thell were married at the Morrison County courthouse two days before David left for Iraq in 2003.
Career goals: Become a nurse practitioner.
How she learned to deliver bad news: Be honest, sensitive, empathetic and frank with people. "Throughout the years I've grown accustomed to grief and how to talk about it. Sometimes I say a little prayer ... anything that could possibly help."
Favorite patients: Thell said she has a book of memories she keeps in her head of patients who stand out. "From the drunkest patients to the sweet little old ladies, I love taking care of everyone."
She's been a registered nurse at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd for nearly eight years now and still thrives on caring for patients.
Thell works as a surgical nurse where she sets up the operating room, prepares a patient for surgery, assists during surgery and then takes care of the patient in recover.
She said working with surgical patients is rewarding because people sometimes come in with gut-wrenching pain and after surgery they feel much better.
"You can really see the progress patients can make from the time they come in until the time they go home," Thell said. "It's those little instances that make me want to stay in nursing."
Thell is even back in school, getting her bachelor's degree in nursing through St. Scholastica's program at Central Lakes College. After she graduates this fall, Thell hopes to then pursue her master's degree in nursing.
"I have no doubt in my mind I'll be a nurse for the rest of my life," she said.
Besides working and attending college, Thell has three children, ages 6, 3 and 1, who keep her busy. Thell said she depends on her husband, David Thell, a lot while she's so busy.
"I have a very good husband," she said of David, who often cooks, cleans, does laundry and the dishes. "He's a really good dad and husband and I wouldn't be able to do it without him."
The Thells have been married for six years. When their son Elijah was born, David was serving with the National Guard in Iraq. He didn't get to meet his son until he was 6 months old.
Thell said she used to send her husband Elijah's onesies he had outgrown so he could physically see how big his son was getting while he was in Iraq.
It was a tough time, but Thell believes everything happens for a reason.
"That's just life," she said.
HEIDI LAKE may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5879.
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