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Healing by helping others

After 18 months of hard work and determination, Amanda Christensen is returning the kindness she received during her own personal tragedy by providing comfort and support to those in need.

By TAFE Queensland

Amanda Christensen began working as an enrolled nurse in Hervey Bay Hospital’s surgical ward in January, after graduating from TAFE Queensland last year with a Diploma of Nursing (HLT54115). Now she’s providing support to surgical patients at the same hospital that helped care for her late son Cooper during his struggle with terminal brain cancer four years ago.

Inspired by the amazing nurses who despite being busy and stressed were always compassionate and empathetic towards her son and family, Amanda said she felt humbled to be able to do the same for others.

“The knowledge that I gained from the team of dedicated nurses that cared for not only my son, but for myself and my family both during and after Cooper’s battle will never be forgotten, and is a huge part of why I am a nurse today,” Amanda said.

“I want to take that spark they gave me and combine it with what I’ve learnt at TAFE Queensland so I can give back. Every day when I’m at work Cooper is never far from my mind, so I take what I do very seriously and I want to give it my everything.”

Amanda was part of the first cohort to study the Diploma of Nursing in the purpose-built Health Industry Training Centre at TAFE Queensland’s Hervey Bay campus and said the hands-on experience and guidance she received from her teachers helped prepare her transition into her new role.

“I loved my time at TAFE Queensland and I cannot speak highly enough of my teacher,” Amanda said.

The road to get to this point has been far from easy, with Amanda having to work through her grief and her own self-doubt to complete her diploma. But a steely determination and Cooper’s mantra of ‘Never, ever give up’ has pushed her to achieve her goals.

“It’s harder than I ever thought it would be, but it’s so much more rewarding too,” she said.

“As a nurse, when you’re working and you show compassion you don’t think anything of it, but patients and their families are so appreciative and it makes you realise you are making a difference. They won’t remember my name but they’ll remember I cared, and that makes it all worthwhile."

“There were moments where I didn’t think I could do it, that I wasn’t smart enough. Then there were the personal triggers from Cooper’s experience. But that is what makes me who I am, and it’s what motivates me.”

On top of providing practical care to the community, Amanda has also contributed to helping others find a cure for brain cancer, raising more than $47,000 over the last three years for the Cure for Brain Cancer Foundation.

It’s a cause that’s obviously very close to her heart, with Amanda juggling her annual Walk4BrainCancer – Cooper’s Walk fundraiser with her studies and work, but Amanda says she wouldn’t have been able to do it if it weren’t for the generosity of the Hervey Bay community.

“There is no cure for brain cancer and they desperately need funds to put towards research so they can find one,” Amanda said.

“It takes a village and I certainly don’t do it alone; I’m lucky enough to be supported by some amazing family and friends."

“Hervey Bay and the surrounding area is a great community, and they’ve been so supportive. I know a lot of people felt like they knew Cooper – they followed his journey and there’s many who still continue to follow ours on Facebook. They’ve all been incredibly generous and willing to help.”

While Amanda’s long term goal is to work in either a children’s ward or oncology, for now she is driven by the desire to gain as many clinical skills and as much practice and knowledge as possible.

“I love my job and I just want to keep learning. I learn something new every day and in nursing, it’s a practice where you can never know too much.”

If you’d like to donate toward finding a cure for brain cancer, follow the Walk4BrainCancer – Cooper’s Walk Facebook page to keep track of the next event, or visit the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation website and donate directly.