Caregiver Contest Runner-Up Winner: Kaitlin W.

04/07/23  9:00 AM PST

Congratulations to Runner-Up winner Kaitlin W. from Puyallup, Washington.

I started my career in Healthcare long before my kids entered into my life. I always thought I wanted to be a journalist until my uncle got sick with bone cancer and I took care of him until his last breath. I thought then my life was changed and being a caregiver to patients in their home was and has been the most rewarding career of my life. I never knew though what was ahead for me and how my role as a caregiver to non-family would turn into the role of a lifetime.

4 years ago my 3rd child, my daughter Shayla entered the world. For the first 2 weeks of her life everything was wonderful. Things took a turn for the worst when she was misdiagnosed multiple times and ended up on life support with an Ecoli UTI with sepsis fighting for her life. At that moment I was both a healthcare professional advocating and fighting for my child and a Mother. Juggling the two hats in an industry where I’ve dedicated my life brought me to the incredibly challenging emotional side of watching your own child fight to live, and knowing way too much about the blood labs, the vitals, the everything.

That hospitalization changed Shayla’s life and our family’s life forever. For 12 years I spent dedicated to other families. Brining my love, compassion and restoring quality of life inside other people’s homes. I knew how to help families advocate for their loved one’s best interests, I knew how to keep a patient comfortable and let them feel safe as they peacefully passed. I’ve held the hands of families all across the country during their darkest days, and I always left knowing that I gave it my all.

Now as a mother with an infant who left the hospital with what we thought were temporary medical setbacks, I had to navigate holding my own hand, fighting for my own children and never giving up hope even on the hardest days.

As a spouse to an Active duty Army soldier I thought I was prepared for everything life could throw our way, we’ve done 4 deployments, moved cross country 5 time, I’ve had children alone while he was deployed- we had been through so much and came out resilient every time. Shayla’s uncharted waters though was not something I ever considered. However, it has turned into the most beautiful caregiving love story of my life.

Over the last four years Shayla has changed my entire life and approach to caregiving. She has shown me that even after hard and scary doctors appointments that we can still smile and push on. When she first got sick I thought things would improve quickly and we would move forward and past the terrifying experience- however, what caregiving for her has taught me is that the rollercoaster of fighting for your loved ones health doesn’t ever truly stop. The peaks and valleys of that roller coaster just change. Some days higher, some months flat, some years quiet -some years not. Caregiving for Shayla and giving up my career outside the home has taught me that my career prior to her birth was a steppingstone to me transitioning into the best caregiver I can strive to be- a caregiver for my own beautiful child. This opportunity to be her voice, her companion, her nurse, her OT, Speech, PT, her Mom, her caregiver has allowed me to use our story to help support other caregivers in the community as well. Being Shayla’s caregiver has opened up so many avenues in life that I never expected- because of her and our story we have been able to help save countless lives by using Shayla’s journey with misdiagnosed sepsis to allow others to help advocate for their loved ones. I have also been honored to be able to lead the sepsis alliance caregivers support group monthly, participate in panel discussion from grief, anniversaries, what to expect in being a parent caregiver, to being asked to share our story to the top research scientists in the world at a conference recently to help the medical world diagnoses and treat sepsis faster to improve patient outcomes.

Caregiving has given me the opportunity to continue to support not only Shayla’s health and well-being but my own. Everyday being a caregiver from my disabled little girl is a day we spend learning, growing and thriving together.

It is and always will be my greatest honor to be Shayla’s caregiver from now until the end of my days.

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