The heart of a champion

Melinda (Wulf) Hull ’12, shares her hard-fought journey to graduate with a nursing degree from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, despite a diagnosis of congestive heart failure during her senior year.

I knew I always wanted to be a nurse. No one in my family had gone to college of any kind. I had done my homework on schools in the area where there were good nursing programs but also a good softball program. I had been in contact with Cindy Suess (the former softball coach at UW Oshkosh). I came to meet her and the team and then got a tour of campus and also the nursing program. I fell in love with the professors,and I knew the atmosphere was the right fit.

During February 2012, Hull started sweating and having trouble breathing as well as chest and back pain on her way to class. She collapsed in former UWO nursing professor Sharon Chappy’s office.

Dr. Chappy ended up taking me back to my hometown of New London to meet my mom at the hospital and take me to the emergency room (ER). There I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF). I couldn‘t believe what I was hearing. The doctor told me that my heart was twice its normal size.

After initial treatments and medication, Hull returned to campus to finish her final semester. She had some setbacks  but worked hard to get her life back to normal.

The Monday of finals week I was having trouble breathing and my heart was racing. After my first final,I went to the ER and from there was taken to Froedtert. There I got a pacemaker/defibrillator placed in April 2012.

After recovering for a few weeks later, Hull again returned to campus. She worked with faculty and staff in the College of Nursing to finish her courses in time to walk across the stage at May commencement ceremony.

I did it with all the struggles of classes, softball and CHF my last semester. I had some very amazing instructors while I attended UW Oshkosh, especially in the College of Nursing.  Dr. Chappy was one of my favorite instructors. Little did I know, I would end up with heart failure and she was one of the professors that did everything she could to help me graduate.

The summer following graduation, Hull’s heart condition worsened and she required a heart transplant. Meanwhile, she got married and started umpiring and coaching softball. She joined committees and volunteered. She cared for a man suffering from both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Side effects from her medications made it difficult to study for her state boards, and her recovery continues. She is contemplating what to do next…

My experiences with my medical condition have definitely opened my eyes when it comes to nursing. I definitely know how I want to be treated as a patient and, therefore, know how I want to treat future patients. The biggest thing I learned was that I needed to be my own advocate when it came to my care.

Read more about how the College of Nursing helped Hull reach her dream of graduating.

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