HCTC nursing graduate featured in "Humans of Central Appalachia"
HCTC graduate Kathy Lucas was featured in the "Humans of Central Appalachia" series.
The 2006 graduate said she could not have made it without the help and encouragement of HCTC faculty. "I encourage all Licensed Practical Nurses to go back to school and I encourage HCTC to everyone," she said. Here is her story as featured.
I am proudest of finishing school. When I think back at it now, I think how easy
it would have been to just back out. And, had I done that, I know I wouldn t be where
I am now.
Kathy Lucas, Registered Nurse; Whitesburg, Kentucky:
"I grew up in Harlan County, in Cumberland. As a kid, I remember swimming in the creek. That was the big thing. In the wintertime, we always went sleigh riding. Most of the time, there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood. Everybody gathered, and we rode until we couldn t anymore.
My mom was remarried. My step-dad worked for construction companies, and my mother stayed at home. There were six of us kids.
In high school, everybody s dads worked in the coalmines. My dad, like I said, worked in construction. Coalmines paid big. Those were the uppity kids, and we were kind of down in the lower class. In middle school, I played basketball some, but that s it.
My grandparents didn t live around here. My mom s family was from Iowa, so they didn t live around here. My mom and dad divorced, that s how she wound up in Harlan. My mother actually died when she was 37. I was 15 when my mom died. That was the hardest thing I ve ever been through. A lot of things changed. I kind of went into her role. I was the oldest girl. There were two girls below me. I assumed my mother s role. I was still in high school. I did all the cooking, and the cleaning, and taking care of my siblings. I have two brothers who were mentally handicapped, and they were both older than me. I had my daughter when I was in high school. My daughter is now 30. As a senior in high school, I was pregnant. My daughter was five months old when I graduated from high school.
My sister-in-law babysat. I was far enough along into high school that I only had to go a half a day for that last six months, so that helped out a whole lot. When my daughter was nine months old, I obtained custody of my younger sister, who was fourteen at the time. So, then she stayed with me until she graduated from high school.
My handicapped brothers went to group homes, and then my other brother went out on his own. The younger sister, she was four when my mom died. She s a half-sister, and she moved in with her aunt, who was my step-dad s sister.
My past made me a stronger person. Sometimes, I look back, and I wonder how in the world I did it. My mom wasn t there when I had my daughter. I had no help raising my daughter. I did marry her dad. It was a short marriage, very short marriage. And I did it by myself. It was very hard. I would never say that it wasn t. It was a struggle. Sometimes, I see people and they say, You don t understand, but I do understand. Don t tell me I don t understand because probably if they heard my story, they would think I should straighten up.
My mom was a very strong woman. She had a lot of health problems, and she didn t take care of herself because she had six kids. That s one of those things.
After I graduated from high school, I was married for four years. We divorced, and then it was just my daughter and me. I probably stayed single for five years, and then I remarried. At that time, I started college. I think we were married about nine years, and I finished up my college when my son was six months old. So nursing school, I was an LPN at first. When he started school, I went back to RN school and finished my RN. I always wanted to be a nurse, and I never thought I would be able to do it, especially since I had a kid in high school, but at that time, I knew I had to do something. I had a kid to raise, so like I said, I went back and finished it up. I got pregnant again while I was in nursing school, and I went back to work on the floor in the hospital when my son was three days old, which was worse mentally than it was physically, but I had to do it. I was ready to graduate. It was either graduate or drop out completely.
I have two kids: my daughter will be 31 in January, and my son just turned 17. I used to work the nursery at the hospital, and you have these people who come in, and they say, Well, you don t understand what I m going through, why I m on drugs. Let me tell you my story. They re like, Well, you ve got it made, you re a nurse. Well, I worked really hard. When I went back to nursing school to become an RN, I worked full-time at the hospital 8:00 to 3:30. I was in Hazard by 4:00 for class usually until 10:00 at night. And, then I drove back to Cumberland and came back to school the next day. And I did it.
The biggest thing that my mom taught me is responsibility. I m not bragging, but I m probably almost OCD as far as responsibility is concerned. I always made sure my kids were taken care of when I went to work. I always had a plan for my kids. I always knew if I had this amount of money, and I had this amount of time before payday, what I could do with that money and how I could make it through with that money because my mom lived on a shoestring. You know, with six kids, you do.
My mom could make a meal out of nothing. If we had potatoes, and we had corn meal and soup beans, we had a meal. We never went hungry. A lot of things I remember my mom cooking, and it didn t seem like much back then, but that s what we knew, and we were okay with it. Sometimes I still fix those things. Beans and peas. I love beans and peas. Or potatoes and peas. My mom fixed this. She always called it creamed potatoes and peas. When I told my husband, he was like, I ve never eaten that. And I was like, Well, let me fix it. And, he actually loves it, and his mother loves it. It must be an Iowa thing, because nobody around here knows it. My mom would fix macaroni and tomatoes, but she always would put some hamburger meat in it. We call that goulash. It didn t take a whole lot. You could make a big pot of it for hardly anything, and everybody ate, and they were full.
For fun, I do have flowerbeds at my house; probably too many because I enjoy them so much. I just enjoy sitting on my porch and swinging. I love my swing on my front porch. That s probably my big thing, and just to listen. I do crochet in my spare time. I don t have a lot of time for it. I work with home health now, so sometimes I have things to do with that in the evening. I love all of my patients, and I love my job. This is the first time I ve worked home health, and it s such a rewarding job, you would just not believe.
These people who you go to, they re mostly elderly people, and they appreciate you so much. Just coming to see them, just coming to visit with them, and them just knowing that you re coming, and they just love that. It s just for the company of it. Sometimes, they ll say, I ain t see nobody since you were here last week. So, it s sad. It s so hard not to take it home with me because some of the girls who work there, they knew me before, and they ll be like, Kathy you ll be taking people home with you, and you ll be carrying them food, and I have done both. I love this home health job. I ve worked ER, ICU, the floor, OB nursery, and I love all of it, but this job, I guess at my age, it s very rewarding. My territory, I go across Pine Mountain to Eolia, on down to the Harlan County line, and I just do around here.
My husband and I, we picked 400 pounds of peas that he planted by himself, and he and I picked every one of those peas. Most of what we grow we bring to the farmer s market. What I take out of there I would cook then, so probably about two messes is all we like to eat after dealing with all those. He and I usually can green beans, tomatoes and tomato juice. But, the thing about him, he s kind of like his daddy; he doesn t want anything to go to waste. Last year, we were canning green beans, and I kept canning and canning, and I d come back, and there d be another bushel sitting there for me to string. I was like, where are you getting this from? He said, I ran out there and picked you some more! I said, Do not bring another green bean in here because this is it for me, brother. That s hard to deal with, plus I still work a full-time job. Plus, there s laundry and cleaning and all that stuff. A lot of it, I ve found that I just have to let it go.
I ve just got the one child at home, but I do have two grandchildren who are four and nine, and they re the light of our lives. They live in Harlan County. I see them often, and we keep the baby a lot while her mom works. Her mom works at Pikeville for Home Health, so when she comes here, she usually brings the baby to us. The little one is into the farmer s market, but the big one isn t because we weren t into farming that much back then, but we have been since the little one came along, and she loves it. She s four. She says, Pappy, you got a customer out here. We have a little stand at our house, too. When we had our strawberries, that s how Shane started her in planting, he started her in planting her strawberries. We would take her out there to pick them and tommy toes. She would help us pick peas. She d pick a few peas, and then she d get tired and quit.
One time, when I was in seventh grade or something like that, we moved to Ohio for a while, and they treated us awful. They were like, Y all are from Kentucky. Listen to how you talk. We see this stuff on the news about how none of us wear shoes, none of us work. I do work. I work a fulltime job. I have kids, I have raised my kids, and I m not on drugs. I feel like those people should come here and see how we live. They should see how we eat. We cook, we wash our dishes, we put out dishes away, we do a load of laundry, we go to bed. I don t know what people in other parts of the country do, but that s part of our lives. We re not dirty, we take baths. We do wear shoes. Sometimes, we go barefooted, and we can if we want to. It really kind of aggravates me; it makes me mad.
I am proudest of finishing school. When I think back at it now, I think how easy it would have been to just back out. And, had I done that, I know I wouldn t be where I am now. At the time that I got pregnant, there were probably five or six other pregnant girls in my class. That was in 85- 86 when all this teen pregnancy stuff was really starting. Nobody really paid attention to it. And, then, you went to school for so long, and when you had passed over half of your pregnancy, they would let you do homebound, which was really good.
I ll never forget my teacher who came to my house. She was so good, and she pushed me probably beyond what anyone at my regular school ever would have done. Had it not been for her, my GPA would have been zilch when I graduated high school, but because of her, my GPA was really up there, and she gave me confidence to be able to make those grades. My three brothers before me, none of those graduated high school, so I was the first one to graduate high school. There was no one to cheerlead or support me. I didn t have a grandma, I didn t have a grandpa. Aunts, uncles, nobody. I just thought, this is the thing to do. People are supposed to go to school.
I don t think I ll ever live anywhere else. I keep saying I can t wait until I retire. I m so excited about retirement. You know, there s no retirement from nursing. I hope at a certain age that I can quit. Depending on my husband s mom--his mom s still alive; he lost his dad a couple years ago--we re here for her. I would never pull him away from his mother because I know how important that is. Maybe then, when we can go to Tennessee and stay at the lake all the time. Fish all the time. I like to fish, too.
When I ve been on vacation, I miss home. I m ready to come to my bed, to my home. Vacations, for me, seem like so much work because, you know, I m the one who does all the laundry after and does it before. I really enjoy being home. I like the water, I like the beach, but when it s time to come home, I m ready to come home.
I would like people to remember that I am a hard worker, that I am a caring nurse. I know sometimes nurses let it get by the wayside, and I ve always told myself when I get past that point where it upsets me when somebody dies or I m numb to that, I would get out of it. I really would. But I want everybody to remember me like that. That I worked hard for everything that I ve got. You know, I have supervisors at work, and they re like, You know we love you to death. Every time I ve left a job, at Whitesburg Hospital or wherever I was working, my supervisor would be like, Please don t leave us. Our director of nurses asked me today, You ready to come back to us yet? That makes me feel so good to know that they haven t forgotten me, and they did appreciate me."