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Ann: How Her Care Inspired a Nursing Career

When Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Nurse Ansley Riedel walks through the doors of the Egleston Hospital Transplant Stepdown Unit at the beginning of each shift, she’s reminded of Nurse Ann Railey, the special nurse—now her colleague—who inspired her love for Children’s many years ago while she battled a daunting diagnosis.

Ann smiling out front of Children's 

Ansley was 10 months old when she was diagnosed with acute myelomonocytic leukemia. Many of her early childhood memories include details of the countless hours she spent as a patient at Egleston, full of early morning doctor visits, needlesticks, I.V. lines, and the constant beep of monitors and medication pumps. For most people, the treatments, relapses and bone marrow transplants that Ansley endured during her first three and a half years might evoke negative emotions; however, Ansley only holds onto the positive times with her Children’s family, thanks in large part to Ann.

Ann, affectionately known as “Mama Duck” to her patients and families in the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders unit at Egleston, has a reputation for being a compassionate and knowledgeable resource for her patients and a mentor to many new nurses, truly exemplifying the values Children’s looks for in its employees.

Ansley first met “Nurse Ann” when she was admitted to Egleston and Ann became her primary nurse.

“Ansley was very sick when I was first assigned to her care,” Ann said. “As soon as I walked into her room, I felt an instant and inexplicable bond with Ansley and her family. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a lifelong friendship.”

Throughout the nearly four years of Ansley’s treatment, including numerous therapies and two relapses, Ann became a part of Ansley’s extended family, often joining them for activities like making homemade orange juice or feeding ducks at the pond, and occasionally volunteering to stay with Ansley so her parents could go on a rare date night. And when Ansley traveled to Seattle for her second bone marrow transplant, her parents sent Ann handwritten letters and photos to keep her updated on Ansley’s progress.

For Ansley’s second birthday—long before Hope and Will became the official Children’s mascots—Ann gave Ansley a special teddy bear named Hope. “Whatever happens, I told her, never give up hope,” Ann said.

From that day on, Ansley carried “Hope Cuddly Bear,” as she called him, to every doctor visit, check-up and hospital stay.

When Ann got married a few years later, then-5-year-old Ansley—who had fortunately achieved remission—participated in the wedding as a flower girl.

By the time Ansley reached middle school, she couldn’t imagine a future career doing anything other than caring for pediatric patients. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in psychology in Tennessee, the native Atlantan missed her home state and the strong connection she felt with Children’s. Determined to get her foot in the door full-time at Children’s, Ansley started her BSN degree at Emory and landed a nurse externship position at Egleston during the summer between her first and second years. Through this experience, Ansley says it was gratifying helping chronically ill patients get a second chance at life—just like the second chance she received at Children’s years ago.

“Other than my family, Nurse Ann has always been my greatest cheerleader,” Ansley said. “When we felt down or discouraged, she was there for us and provided the strength we needed to keep going. She made me realize how much I loved the medical field and inspired me to be a compassionate nurse like she is, so I can care for and offer families encouragement when everything else seems to be falling apart.”

When Ansley completed her nurse externship, she transitioned to work as a central staffing office patient care specialist and, after graduation, she was thrilled to accept a job offer to join Children’s full-time as a clinical nurse.

Today, Ansley cares for patients in the Transplant Stepdown Unit with liver and kidney diseases (pre- and post-transplant) and those in need of intestinal rehabilitation. When she’s not at work, Ansley still chooses to spend her time giving back to kids in the community. She is a longtime volunteer at Camp Sunshine, a summer camp where children with cancer can play, grow and thrive, which she attended as a camper for 12 years. She knows she has a unique opportunity to be a beacon of hope for children with cancer by sharing her story.

Ansley still brings Hope Cuddly Bear—now a bit worn down with love—with her to Camp Sunshine every summer as a reminder of her journey and the gift of Nurse Ann’s care. She and Ann remain close to this day, occasionally reminiscing about old memories or crossing paths at work.

“Caring for kids is my passion, and I feel so lucky to be able to do that every day at Children’s alongside amazing people like Ann,” Ansley said.

As for Nurse Ann, who recently celebrated 35 years at Children’s, she feels like the lucky one.

“Not everyone gets the chance to be a nurse and help families going through the unimaginable,” she said. “My motto is that if I can make a difference in someone's life each day—no matter how big or small—I have done my job. It is an honor to know that I inspired Ansley to be a Children’s nurse. I have no doubt that, 20 years down the road, Ansley will have inspired someone else to do the same.”

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