Jill Smith, lead APP (advanced practice provider) in the Perioperative Surgical Home (PSH), first met Belle Bateman when she was just 3 years old and 6 weeks post-treatment for a rare brain tumor. At the time of their meeting, Belle had undergone extensive surgeries as well as chemotherapy and radiation.
“I got to know Belle and her family with her MRI schedule for regular surveillance of the tumor site,” said Jill. “I would see her on Fridays and do her history and physical in preparation for her MRI under general anesthesia.”
As lead APP covering Preop, PSH and the Mahoning Valley PSH, Jill’s responsibilities include completing a surgical history and physical, obtaining lab work and imaging as needed, and making appropriate referrals for surgical clearance.
“I enjoy helping patients and families navigate the surgical process – answering their questions, helping with anxiety, and for those children having serial surgeries, seeing their progress,” said Jill.
Describing the Batemans as one of most positive families she has ever worked with, Jill said caring for Belle and overseeing her medical treatment is a full-time job for the family.
“They have been forced to deal with incredibly difficult decisions,” she said. “Despite all of this, they have a wonderful outlook and show up with smiles and positivity.”
Jill said each time she sees Belle, she notices the progress she’s made. Having gotten to know the family well, Jill looks forward to catch-up sessions with them and hearing about what they’ve been up to as a family since their last visit.
“Even though Belle is non-verbal, her eye contact assures me that someday she’ll talk to me,” said Jill. “There is just something about her that touched my heart. When I see her name on the schedule, I’m always excited to see what new things she is doing.”
Belle’s mom, Renee, says the feeling is mutual.
“Jill has been a consistent caregiver in Belle’s life,” she said. “Since Belle has such a complex medical history, it’s nice to see a familiar face who knows her background, so we don’t have to repeat ourselves at each visit.”
Now age 7 and attending kindergarten, Renee said Belle has achieved small milestones like being able to make more noises and sounds, more purposeful movement especially on her right side and using an eye gaze device to communicate with them.
Although Jill has cared for thousands of patients throughout her nursing career, she said Belle is special.
“A couple of years ago, Belle’s parents slipped a Christmas card with the family’s photo under my office door,” said Jill. “Finding that card made my whole day. It’s still on my bulletin board.
“I’ve told Belle she has 2 years to learn to say my name since I plan to retire in 2025,” she added. “She is definitely one of the children who will always remind me of why I became a pediatric nurse.”