Nicole Geffrey and Emily Busha, after discovering they met 20 years ago at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital

SPU nursing student Emily Busha works at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital where she was once a patient.

Emily Busha is a familiar name on the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital medical-surgical floor. “I’ve been in and out of Mary Bridge my whole life,” Emily said.

The 21-year-old from Port Orchard, Washington, has a long history with, and deep connection to, the hospital.

Born with total colonic Hirschsprung’s disease, a rare congenital condition that affects nerves in the colon and interferes with the body’s ability to eliminate waste, Emily spent much of her infancy and toddler years as a patient at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. After four surgeries — all before she was in preschool — Emily’s care continued off and on for the next 10 years.

“Growing up, I knew that any time I caught a stomach bug or flu, it meant going back to the hospital,” Emily recalled. When kids with Hirschsprung’s get sick, they can get dehydrated quickly and often need IV treatment and support in the hospital.

Hirschsprung’s disease is more common in those with Trisomy 21 or Down’s syndrome, and it also tends to present more frequently in males. Emily’s diagnosis was rare, especially paired with intestinal neuronal dysplasia. Defying the odds, Emily’s older brother, Tyler, was also diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease combined with intestinal neuronal dysplasia. (Neither sibling is affected by Down’s syndrome.)

Emily’s mom, Lisa, said their family spent so much time at Mary Bridge Children’s that it felt like home. “If nurses saw Tyler or Emily’s name on the charts from the emergency department, one of them would always run down and greet us because they knew we’d be moving up to inpatient. It always felt a little bit like a homecoming,” Lisa said.

Tyler Busha visiting Emily during one of her admissions to Mary Bridge Children’s as an infant.

A family affair

“Because my brother received care at Mary Bridge a couple of years before I did, all of the nurses already knew our family,” Emily said. “They were like family to us!”

At one point, both Tyler and Emily were admitted at the same time and shared a hospital room. Lisa remembers how encouraging it was that the care teams created individualized treatment plans to fit the needs of both kids independently, even though they were from the same family, in the same room, with the same diseases.

Life with two medically fragile kids kept Emily’s parents busy and exhausted, but their love and dedication to their kids was evident to Mary Bridge Children’s staff and left a lasting impression on one of Emily’s nurses, Nicole Geffrey.

“I vividly remember Emily’s father,” Geffrey said. “He taught me the best way to apply an ostomy bag. Parents who have kids with chronic conditions often find tricks or better ways to use medical devices because they’re dealing with these situations at home every day.”

Derrek Busha’s technique was so good that Geffrey said she still uses it today, both in her day-to-day work with patients and also when she’s training peers on ostomy bag application.

Reconnecting years later

Today, Emily is thriving, thanks to the team of experts who cared for her years ago. Emily is a senior at Seattle Pacific University and graduates in June with a BSN degree. She said that hands-down, her Mary Bridge Children’s doctors and nurses were major influences on her decision to pursue a career in pediatric nursing.

She wanted to give back what she had experienced, so she contacted one of her former nurses Jodi Gragg about opportunities at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. Gragg was a student nurse when she cared for both Tyler and Emily. Now she serves as the hospital’s associate chief nurse executive. Emily was invited to interview for a nurse tech position.

“The first question they asked me was if they could talk to my mom,” Emily remembered. “That was such a special interaction, and it’s one of my favorite memories. The fact that they still remembered my parents was just so amazing.”

Coming full circle

Emily got the nurse tech job and began her journey as an employee at Mary Bridge Children’s just over a year ago. She works on the medical-surgical unit — the same floor where she and Tyler used to be patients. Some of her former nurses are now her colleagues.

“It’s a little weird to work where I grew up, but I feel so honored to be here, and I truly love what I get to do,” Emily said. Some days, she’s starting IVs or taking vitals, other days she’s playing with kids in Piper’s Playroom or sitting with patients while parents grab coffee.

Geffrey said she’s so proud of Emily and is honored she wanted to come back to work at Mary Bridge Children’s. “I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago that Emily was the same Emily I had as a patient back in 2001,” Geffrey said. “When we figured it out, I was so surprised. She took a picture of us together and sent it to her parents — it’s so great!”

The Busha family (from left): Lisa, Derrek, Emily, and Tyler

“It’s really cool to see these kids grow up into adults and witness how their experience during hospitalizations shapes how they show up to care for their own patients,” Gragg said.

As she nears graduation from Seattle Pacific, Emily hopes to continue working at Mary Bridge Children’s alongside the people who helped care for her and her family.

“As a patient, you quickly realize the level of passion that goes into medicine and how it truly is a calling,” Emily said. “I feel like this is my calling too—I want to be the person that my doctors and nurses were for me.”

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