What’s critical to read next? Margie Miklas’ debut novel!

I am so very excited to share this book with you!  Margie Miklas is a critical care nurse colleague of mine who has been lucky enough to retire and travel all around Italy!  An award winning author, she has written several books depicting the colorful, less-traveled towns and villages amongst Sicily, Rome, and the Amalfi coast.  But that’s not the exciting part!  On her last viaggio abroad, she penned a medical thriller!  I am proud to show off my nurse buddy’s debut novel!  Check it out!Margie Miklas

  1. What sparked off the idea of your books?

My first three books are on Italy, so my travels there and how I felt at home and fell in love with Italy sparked the idea for the books. The first book is based on my blog, which I started when I went to Italy as a solo traveler for three months. Once I returned home, I realized I had much to say about those experiences besides what I wrote on my blog.

I wrote My Love Affair with Sicily for the same reasons, except that book is based on five separate trips to Sicily, the region where my maternal grandparents were born. I wanted to share my experiences as I discovered explored their village and the other towns and cities in Sicily, a place where I almost felt a strong connection.

The main reason I wrote my third book, Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast, was to present Naples in a more positive light than its reputation. So, the book is a photography/coffee table book depicting life in Naples as well as the Amalfi Coast, which I truly love.

So, this newest work, Critical Cover-Up, is a work of fiction, my first novel. My years of working as a critical care nurse and witnessing the changes in the healthcare system, sparked the idea to write this book. I decided to make it more exciting than that, so I wrote a thriller set in a hospital where a critical care nurse is the main character and discovers corruption and evil around her.

2. Which character, if any, most resembles your personality?

I guess it would have to be Allison Jamison, the protagonist, although as I wrote the story, I don’t think I was consciously thinking of her like that.

3. Which character was the hardest to write and why?

Detective Derning. I don’t know any detectives personally, so his character required more research and imagination for me.

4. How do you plan/research your books?

The Italy books were nonfiction so the research consisted of checking on historical facts about places, monuments, and dates. In Critical Cover-Up, I created a loose outline based on events by chapters, which changed some as the story evolved during the writing process. As I wrote sections which included laws, places, protocols, etc. I reviewed current policy and statistics related to those.

5. What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I am taking a break. I know I will write another book, but nothing concrete is in the works at the moment, although I have been overwhelmed by the positive response and comments about a sequel.

6. Do you write for any websites?

I am a contributing writer for various online and print magazines and newspapers, including Italia Magazine, La Gazzetta Italiana, The Grand Wine Tour, and Italian Talks, the blog for Baglioni Hotels.

7. Do you prefer to read paperbacks or ebooks? Why?

I prefer paperbacks and hardback books because it seems easier to pick up and continue reading. I have so many books on Kindle that I have started and never finished. I like going into bookstores too and browsing the shelves.

8. What was your favorite book as a child and as an adult?

I liked Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales as I was growing up, but as an adult, I prefer biographies and autobiographies. I am currently reading Bruce Springsteen’s, Born to Run.

9. Whom do you admire and why?

I admire my 91-year old mother who always encouraged me to be independent and follow my dreams and today, she still always wears a smile and is positive and encouraging. I also admire writers who can write about very personal challenges times in their lives. I find their stories inspirational and moving, and don’t know that I could write about such private experiences.

10. Name three people, dead or alive, you would invite to dinner. Why?

Wow, this is a tough one. I’d like to invite Angelina Savoca, my Sicilian grandmother who died when I was in my twenties. I have so many questions I’d like to ask her about her life in Sicily before she came to the United States. I’d like to invite Emmy award-winning writer Matthew Weiner so I could pick his brain about character development and storylines. And I’d like to invite Andrea Bocelli if he’d be gracious enough to sing. He’s one of my favorite performers.

Now, if that doesn’t get you interested….try a FREE excerpt from this awesome read!!!

Critical Cover-Up         Critical Care Cover-Up . . . .

The unit was full, so it looked like her shift would be busy. They were also one nurse short, since someone had called in sick and not been replaced. Word from top management was the usual explanation: “There aren’t any nurses available.” One nurse now had three patients, and the charge nurse had one patient and an empty admission bed. This was becoming the status quo lately, and Allison did not recall the staffing being so tight when she worked her clinical during nursing school. Good thing she enjoyed the work so much that she didn’t mind being busy. It was the frickin’ paperwork she detested.

***

     By 2:00 a.m. Allison had gotten caught up with her work. Thank God Mr. Wetherly is somewhat stable. Allison doubted that anyone outside the medical field would describe a critically ill patient in those words. It seemed like an oxymoron. His blood pressure and heart rate were maintaining within the parameters ordered by the physician, although he required high doses of vasoactive medications to achieve those numbers. As Allison reviewed the electronic chart and checked his orders, she became curious as to the events which led to his respiratory arrest a couple of nights before.

Unable to find any new information from the physicians’ progress notes, she approached the central station monitors. I know there’s a reason he coded, and maybe I can find something here, she thought. Zeroing in on Mr. Wetherly’s information, she backtracked to the day in question.

She located his patient data screen and studied his vital sign trends. Her inquisitiveness became an obsession for a few minutes as she zoomed in to the time of the code. She sensed she was on the verge of uncovering something.

“What is this? Oh no. Do I really want to see this?” she said. What had triggered the alarm was not only a heart rate of forty-five, but an oxygen saturation of fifty, which was quite low. After more investigating, Allison discovered that the oxygen saturation had been low for an hour before he coded. The last time it had been within normal limits was an hour and five minutes prior to the code, and at that time it was reading ninety-five percent. The number consistently decreased from there until it reached fifty. She knew this was not good. The alarms for O2 sats were always set for ninety-two or ninety-three, since anything below that was abnormal. Why didn’t someone check on this patient when the alarms went off? she wondered as a heated flush spread up her chest and across her face.

Allison then checked the alarm review for the same time period and found close to 100 instances when the alarm had been triggered for low oxygen saturation.

Her stomach roiled, and she swallowed back the wave of nausea that followed. Why didn’t someone see this? She printed out the alarm events and also the patient’s vital signs from that terrible day and shoved the papers into her bag. Glancing around, she noticed that she was the only one at the desk and felt relieved that she was not being watched. Maybe she would reevaluate the information later when she had more time. Her gut informed her that something wasn’t right, and she knew this information was something she had to save.

The more she contemplated what she’d discovered, the more anxious Allison became. She knew that sometimes nurses just silenced the alarms when they were sitting at the desk and didn’t really investigate the reason for them. Most of the time it was insignificant and an annoyance, such as an irregular heartbeat in a patient everyone already knew suffered from the problem. But this was serious, and Allison thought she recalled a nurse sitting near the monitors for most of the night before Mr. Wetherly coded. She remembered that the nurse was Paula, an experienced ICU nurse who had worked in that unit for at least three years. Now Allison recalled that Paula had been sitting near the monitors that night and silencing alarms while she was charting. Had she silenced Mr. Wetherly’s alarms? Possibly. Probably. But Allison had not witnessed it. She could identify the nurse, but she couldn’t say for sure that this nurse had turned off any alarms, since she wasn’t specifically observing her behavior. But someone had to have silenced those alarms.

The sense of unease didn’t dissipate, and Allison wasn’t sure what she should do. If I don’t say anything, nobody will know and nothing will happen to my coworker. Allison had this gut feeling that if the alarms had not been silenced, Mr. Wetherly would never have had low oxygen saturation for a long enough time to cause him to stop breathing.

***

     For the next two days, her stomach was killing her as she couldn’t stop thinking about Mr. Wetherly’s situation. Is it my responsibility to say something? Will it make any difference?

When she came back to work that night, she found out that Mr. Wetherly had died during the previous shift. The nurses had coded him with the family present, but the sepsis was too advanced and he didn’t survive. She tried to tell herself it was for the best, that he would never have been the same, but she knew better. Mr. Wetherly never should have arrested in the first place.

So readers?  What did you think?  Where can you connect with Margi Miklas?

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or send her an email!  But don’t wait!  Halloween’s coming up!  Treat yourself to this #mustread!

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What exactly is a Bush Nurse? Meet Annabelle Braley

Belles of Steel exist downunder too!  

photo of annabelle braley

A bush nurse at heart!

Take for example, Annabelle Braley, author of BUSH NURSES.   Annabelle grew up in rural Australia.  Out in the bush, as it is called downunder.  Amidst the big red kangaroos and thousands of sheep.    As a young girl, her parents wanted a better education than her small town in Queensland could provide, so she was shipped off to Brisbane to boarding school.

The state of Queensland is two and a half times the size of the state of Texas.  Think about how big that really is!   Being so far away from her family,  she spent a great deal of her childhood writing long letters home, becoming quite an avid story teller.   After school, Annabelle wanted to become a hair dresser, but her father had different ideas.   He insisted she choose between becoming a nurse or a school teacher.   Not having fond memories of her teachers at boarding school, Annabelle enrolled in nurse’s training.

Her nursing career was short-lived however, as soon she married a sheep farmer.    Packing up her hopes and dreams, she moved out to a huge, isolated cattle and sheep station in Southwest Queensland.    The station was 130 km from anything that closely resembled civilization.

Once again, she found herself writing long letters to family and friends.   Eventually, she wrote her first story for a competition.  In 2006, she published her first story.  It was a piece for RM Williams OUTBACK Magazine.   She’s been writing for them and other rural publications since.

Sheep station

1000 hectares of sheep!

In 2009, she was commissioned to write a book called Caging Octopuses; The first decade of Condamine Cods Rugby about a small community on the western Darling Downs in rural Queensland, near where she had grown up.    It was about a tiny town of 90 people, Condamine  whose inhabitants reconnected and strengthened their community by introducing a Rugby Union club.   Smack dab in the middle of a farming community, the fondness and vigor of  its residents for rugby completely revitalized a dying community.

The fabulous story was based around a fictitious character, Meg, who marries a local fictitious farmer, Boots.  Boots is a retired rugby player.  Meg writes stories about the Club for her soon to be born baby, Baby Boots.  Meg and Boots are based on a number of locals and their story reflects the story of some of the young people in the area.   Their antics were certainly was not all football!

People liked what Annabelle had to say.   Her stories and book became wildly popular.    In early 2012, she was recruited by Penguin Books to collect and collate the stories which make up BUSH NURSES.   Annabelle believed it an absolute joy to be involved in a project related to her chosen field of nursing.    She believes tha rural and remote Australia, and probably all rural and remote areas around the globe,  run on nurse power.

Just what does it take to be a nurse, out in the bush?  Often, a nurse is the only medical help immediately available.   They might be required to render emergency care,  sort out medical issues and decide who needs to be air-evac’d out.   Bush nurses might have to give immunizations or make home visits deep into the remote interiors of Australia.    They get there by jeep, helicopter or fixed wing.   Many fly as a part of the the Royal Flying Doctor Service.    They might stitch up a wound and deliver an Aboriginal baby all in the same day.    Many are trauma nurses that are certified as MidWives.  Annabelles suspects that a lot of people take nurses for granted, including many nurses themselves.   So for her, the opportunity to celebrate nurses who work in rural/remote areas was kismet.

Never for a “nursing minute” did Annabelle believe when she was a young nurse that she would be doing what she is today!  Writing about them.   A major obstacle in her pathway was her lack of any formal training as a writer.    But she believes that was balanced out by her own experiences living as a woman in outback Australia.    Generally, she loves writing about what she knows.   And she knows the outback well, having lived there most of her adult life.   No cell phones or digital TV.   Just sheer will, determination, and creativity with pen and paper.

BUSH nurses cover

A great read about what real nurse’s do!

A mentor taught her a couple of the montras by which she has survived the challenges the bush can deal out, “believe in yourself and your own abilities” and “stop and take a breath to let some things evolve in their own time.”   Days out in the bush and be long and hard.  Annabelle never gives up.   She admits practice “makes better if not perfect.”

For these reasons, AgeView Press is proud to announce that Annabelle Braley is the 9th Belle of Steel!    Congratulations to a woman who has overcome many odds to become a successful and published story teller, gifted at interpreting the trials and tribulations of other people’s stories.

Annabelles book, BUSH NURSES is available at Penguin Books online.   Australia is one of the most amazing countries you could ever visit.   Check out travel destinations by clicking Austravel.

World changer and World Health Hero Pat Furlong – Belle of Steel # 4

Founder of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy Pat Furlong

A mother, a nurse, meet World Health Hero Pat Furlong!

In 1969, a young, single Catholic woman graduated from college with a double major, nursing and education.   She was bubbly and vivacious with her curly brown locks.   It was remarkable to the nuns of the all-girls Catholic college who had told her she would never make a nurse.    Her social priorities overshadowed her academic prowness.   At her graduation party, her parents asked her what she wanted for her present.   She looked over at her fiancé, directly.   “More than anything else, I want not to be engaged.”     She stunned the room to silence.

This is just one example of the  “I dare you to say no” dogged tenacity of Pat Furlong.    Motivated by a German mother who was a silent feminist before her time,  Pat moved out of her parent’s home in Cincinnati, Ohio shortly after.  She moved to Columbus, got her first job as a nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit and started graduate school at Ohio State.   She just had to learn more about this fascinating thing called the body.   She wanted to know how each cell worked implicitly with the others.    For the first time, Pat felt free and independent.   And it was liberating!

Pat Furlong is now the Founding President and CEO of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD), now the largest nonprofit organization in the United States solely focused on Duchenne muscular dystrophy.   Its mission is to improve the treatment, quality of life, overall care and outlook through research for all individuals affected by this monstrously degenerative, childhood disorder.   Duchenne is the most common fatal, genetic disease which affects 1 out every 3,500 boys each year worldwide.   It currently has no cure.

But Pat Furlong and her team are working to change all that.    In 1984, when both of her boys were diagnosed with Duchenne,  Pat simply could not accept as a mother and as a nurse, the physician’s “there’s no hope and little help. . .they’ll lose the ability to walk, then lose their upper arm strength, then. . lose their life by age 20.”   She wasn’t afraid to tell any doctor just what she thought.  Their answers were not good enough.

Pat’s nursing journey had taken her from the bedside, to patient educator and advocate.   Garnering her gumption Pat immersed herself in learning everything there was to learn about Duchenne.   There was no internet, she physically went to medical libraries and ordered articles and copies of research studies.     She presented herself, not as the teary-eyed mother of two dying boys looking for a miracle.  She knew better.   No, Pat got her foot in many doors, by selling her advocacy as a post-graduate student on a mission of research.   Sadly, there seemed to be no general concensus or standard of care about just what were the best treatment options.  Everyone seemed to be doing their own thing.   It was appalling.  Funding for research was minimal.  No one wanted to hear about a rare genetic disorder.

But for Pat, it wasn’t rare, it was destroying her boy’s muscles, one cell at a time.   And time was running out.   Tragically, both her boys lost their battle with Duchenne in their early teens.   But that didn’t stop Pat.   In fact, standing over their graves, she decided there and then she would not stop until there was a cure.    She remembered her boys telling her, “don’t do it for us, do it for the many.  Miracles aren’t just for one.”

Pat began gathering people around her to ask the tough questions.    With each visit to each expert she asked, “What do we know?   What do we need to know?  What’s the standard of care?  Who’s doing something about it?   And most importantly . . . who’s investing?”   At point in time, the Muscular Dystrophy Association was only investing about a one million a year.   That simply wasn’t enough to fund a cure.  Many feds, the movers and shakers in DC had never even heard of the disease.  It wasn’t on the National Institute of Health’s radar screen because it was a rare disorder.    There were many that told her “just go home.”

But Pat wouldn’t give up.  She had to do it.  She promised her boys.   The defective gene had been isolated back in 1987, but yet there still was no cure.  Pat transformed all of the pain and anger that resulted from profound grief into an unrivaled, energized force.    A DC lobbyist had contacted her; his son was diagnosed with Duchenne’s.    Pat turned to him for advice on how to get Washington to notice.    Gathering a group of other parents of young men with Duchenne, Pat founded PPMD to change to course of this disease.

In 1996, they put on the first-ever  NIH workshop on Duchenne, harnessing a consortium of experts from around the world.   Earning seed funds, they hired a powerful team of DC lobbyists.   There was legislation needed to garner increased funding for research.   In 2001, Senator Arlen Specter took note.   PPMD drafted the MD Care Act, laying out plans for Centers of Excellence to establish standards of care across the nation.

Sam Killian advocate for DMD

One of our Texas DMD boys, advocate Sam Killian.

Pat’s perseverance for her sons paid off.   The legislation passed in Feb of 2001 infusing over 400 million dollars in pivotal Duchenne research.   The NIH took notice which gave researchers a credibility factor.  The moment was literally life changing for many.    In 2010, in the medical journal The Lancet, 180 physicians published a consensus of care considerations for Duchenne.   But the work still is not done.   Pat has bigger plans.   During the next few crucial years of research, as drugs are developed to genetically re-engineer the destructive forces of Duchenne, Pat hopes to see herself smiling.   Her goal is to see more development in combined therapies for Duchenne, more early diagnosis and thus earlier intervention.  She dreams to see boys still walking at 17 and 18.   More extension of life expectancy into the middle thirties, maybe forties.The New Yorker named Pat a World Changer in 2010.  WebMD designated her as a World Health Hero the same year.   She is a top leader at the Institute of Medicine and the FDA.

When asked what makes her successful, Pat describes, “I’m a consummate pest!  If I want something and I know it’s right, I just will not give up.  The pain of losing your children has a ripple effect that lasts forever.  Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my boys.    I channel that pain into productivity.”

For Pat, indeed the mission and the message aren’t over.   For her unbridled passion and stoic, gutsiness to move mountains in a sea of bureaucracy . . . all to save our boys, AgeView Press is proud to honor Belle of Steel number four – the truly amazing Pat Furlong.