takes some college students awhile to know what they want to do with their
lives. Not so for Ian Kolb, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford
on Sunday with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
with a condition that did not allow his body to move as quickly as others’ do,
Kolb has spent most of his life in an intensive job shadowing experience as he
underwent two major transplants of multiple organs, including his small
intestine, which is one of the least-often transplanted organs.
age 10, the thin walls of his colon were perforated during a colonoscopy. He
had his first transplant of three organs at the age of 14. Four years later, he
would need a transplant of five organs. Both times the complicated procedures
and recoveries took place at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, which has
performed more liver and intestine transplants than any other pediatric center
in the world.
first, he thought of becoming a doctor to help patients like himself, but then
he learned that it would take about 16 years to complete the study and
residencies needed for a specialty. That’s an especially long time to someone
who’d already gone through what he had.
turned his attention to nursing. It was around the time of his second
transplant, and he began thinking of his favorite nurses at Children’s – people
he still visits today. He noticed that when his favorite nurse was on duty, he
used less pain medication. She would stop to chat with him when she had time,
and would ambush him with squirts of water from a saline flush.
are the things that really separate the exceptional nurse from the rest,” he
said, and he knows that’s the kind of nurse he’d like to be.
graduated at the top of his class and hopes to move to Connecticut and find a
job there in the Fairfield area. Ideally, he’d like to work with chronically
ill children like he was because he believes he understands what they and their
parents have to face.
said that children spending long stretches of time in a hospital need someone
to put in IVs and keep their cool when one of the one-in-a-million things that
are always happening to chronically ill children happens. They also need
someone who will keep things normal, social and maybe even a little playful.
a very close relationship in that situation,” he said. “The parents who don’t
leave a child’s side need socializing, too. Your mental health goes a long way
realizes also that his mere presence – a formerly chronically ill transplant
patient who is living a normal life and working and doing well – would be
reassuring to families who may be fighting some of their darkest fears.
another lesson Kolb’s learned firsthand, first as a camper, then for three
years as a counselor at Pittsburgh Children’s Camp Chihopi, a one-week
residential camp near Morgantown, W.Va. for children aged 7 to 15 who have
received liver and/or intestinal transplants. All of the counselors are
transplant recipients who can help the children adapt to their condition as
they become adults.
one of the “good things,” if there is such a thing, of having had such a
condition from birth, Kolb said, is that it’s just how his life has always
been. He has always had hurdles, he says, and hurdles certainly don’t bother
always thought I could do anything,” he said. Earlier this semester, he
experienced an aortic aneurysm and was hospitalized just before spring break,
but he didn’t seem to miss a beat. He worked with professors to make up what he
missed and kept his grades up.
says he is healthy now and eager to get started helping children and their
families heal their bodies and bolster their spirits.