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Lee Kavanaugh
Lee Kavanaugh

Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

In grade school, I dreamed of first becoming a rural medical doctor, helping people who were afraid of doctors, because my extended family believed hospitals were only for those dying.

I remember seeing death in pre-school when I watched my Dad prepare animals he had hunted. With the skin peeled away I peered at the animal’s insides, awed by how everything fit so compactly into each bag of skin and bones.

As a first generation college student, and the daughter of two WWII veterans, my freshman year I dived deep into medical service positions: cancer research for work/study; volunteering at the local hospital’s Emergency Department, loading up with pre-med classes. But at 19, the first time I saw a human die in the ED, I ran back to my other love: music.

Music took me away from Appalachia and showed me the world. Since then, I’ve added more skills than just playing music. Interviewing, writing and capturing stories about people for the newspaper was a skill too. Journalism added to my life experience by taking me to places I’d only read about. The stories my Mom told me about her Navy Service (WAVE) grabbed my interest in reporting about our military. I’m the first female journalist The Kansas City Star sent to war: I went to Iraq, twice, embedded with active Army; and Afghanistan, with Army Reservists from Kansas City who flew Chinooks. I was also sent to Ground-Zero in Hurricane Katrina, a terrible tornado in Joplin, Missouri, among several medical stories, too.

I met ordinary people who were extraordinary in their lives. I’ve witnessed first-hand sicknesses, disasters, war, and many deaths…..including my own Mother’s.

I was her Hospice nurse for almost a month, learning as I went. It was very hard yet the highest honor of my life. My gift to her for being such a great Mom. Her gift to me was telling me a few days before her death that I should be a nurse.

A nurse!

With each story I wrote at the newspaper, I was only an observer, not truly able to help, except through words. Mom’s illness and death showed me that it’s the helping-people-part that makes a difference. This desire grew until I made the decision to return to school, studying for a profession that can truly help a person on their very worst day.

I’m not there yet. But I can see the finish line, and a new beginning from the ember of a long ago dream.

My Mission:

To help human beings on the worst day of their lives to return back to themselves, and continue their own journeys.

My Vision:

In the nursing profession helping patients and their families with my knowledge, my life skills and empathy, and working well with a team of like-minded professionals. Making a difference no matter how small. Because kindness matters.

My Philosophy:

Courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and an indomitable spirit. These are my hallmarks of how to be in this world, whether I am working as a nurse on a busy floor or as a mom volunteering at my children’s school. I try to see the bigger picture, and try to laugh when I can because yes, silliness matters, too! I am trained to see another’s life story, and everyone has one. But as a professional nurse, I can immediately help someone to feel better and find their footing again.

Thank you for reading this far!

Lee Hill Kavanaugh, Student Nurse (S.N.)
William Jewell College – Nursing Class of 2022