One family’s story of loss, recovery and healing is a testament to the compassionate care many receive from dedicated nurses. In this case, gratitude was transformed into support for students who are seeking a career in nursing.
Jennifer and Keenan Kelly of Natchitoches established the Carolyn Annette Kelly Endowed Scholarship in Nursing that will be presented to a junior-level Northwestern State University nursing student in clinicals. The scholarship is for one year and recipients can reapply. Recipients must maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or better. The scholarship honors the memory of the Kellys’ infant daughter.
“On October 3, 2006, I was admitted to the hospital with complications from a twin pregnancy,” Jennifer Kelly said, describing the weeks she spent on complete bedrest in a Shreveport hospital, an hour away from home. “We had known that it was a possibility that I would be hospitalized early but considering I was only 23 weeks, I was not ready. Those three weeks would have been miserable without the kind and caring nurses who took wonderful care of me.”
During her hospitalization, while Keenan was in Natchitoches finalizing the purchase of their new home and moving, Jennifer said “I became one of them.”
“If they ordered out, so did I. We each had our ‘money’ bag which was a biohazard bag,” she said. “I will never forget these wonderful women and the care they showed.”
On the night of Oct. 26, at 27 weeks, it was determined that Jennifer had lost one daughter, Carolyn Annette Kelly, and was at risk of losing her identical twin, Anderson Paige Kelly and was scheduled for emergency surgery. Anderson was born weighing 1 pound 14 ounces and although Keenan could not reach the hospital in time, two of Jennifer’s sisters were able to be with her for delivery. Anderson was taken immediate to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where she spent the next three months. Jennifer was impressed by the professionalism and caring of the nurses during her emergency situation and during the three months that Anderson was in NICU.
“There was never a moment that we felt that Anderson was not getting what she needed. We could not have asked for better care from each of these departments,” Jennifer said.
When Andi was considered out of the woods and just needed time to grow, Kelly returned to her job as director of Auxiliary Services at NSU so that when Andi was allowed to come home, she could spend her maternity leave with her at home.
“Being over an hour away was very hard and the most comforting thing was we could call 24 hours and talk to the nurses to get the latest,” she said. “We called numerous times a day to find out how much Andi had eaten, how much weight she had gained and to get any other updates. I left my digital camera with the nurses and they would always snap photos for me.”
Today, Andi is a healthy 10-year-old in fourth grade at St. Mary’s School in Natchitoches. She is involved in piano, dance, softball and basketball.
Keenan Kelly graduated from NSU in 1990 with a degree in business in administration and graduated from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans in 1993. Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree in business and office education in 1991, master’s in educational technology in 1999 and completed 30+ in educational leadership in 2004. Her current title at NSU is assistant to the provost for academic support and auxiliary services.
“Northwestern has always been a very special place for Keenan and I. As alumni we are always looking for ways to support the University and to help others,” Jennifer said. “We hope to continue to grow this scholarship as a legacy in Carolyn’s name. We know firsthand what a well educated nursing staff can do.”
Established in 1954, Northwestern State’s has the oldest baccalaureate program in nursing in Louisiana. Healthcare agencies in Caddo and Bossier parishes estimate that 75-80 percent of the RN workforce are graduates of one or more of NSU’s nursing programs.
For information on supporting student scholarships, visit northwesternalumni.com or call (318) 357-4414.
Photo: Keenan and Jennifer Kelly, along with their daughter Anderson Paige Kelly.