My Miracle Journey – From Park Bench to “Park Avenue”*
by Denise C. Lemakos, RN, CLNC
Two years ago, I stood in the ambulatory care unit holding a dirty colonoscope. Case No. 6 canceled because the patient was noncompliant with her preparation. I glanced up at the light fixture filled with dead flies (where was maintenance?) and thought, “I can’t do this anymore. I didn’t get clean and sober for this!”
I went to the Institute’s website. With one little click I began a dramatic transformation in my professional and personal lives.
No one at the hospital knew that years ago I had survived a long history of neglect and addiction. I had been battered, homeless, living on the streets of Brooklyn for two years. After nine years of recovery the physical scars and bruises had faded.
I’d come such a long way, yet my career still wasn’t going anywhere. Every shift I endured eight hours of bickering among the five staff nurses I was assigned to work with. Even worse, my take-home pay was less than $14 an hour, pitiful for a seasoned operating room nurse with 22 years of experience. My heart told me I could be happy and do more with my life.
Then someone at work showed me a brochure from another nurse who had taken Vickie Milazzo Institute’s CLNC® Certification Program. I thought, “I can do this.”
I went to the Institute’s website. With one little click I began a dramatic transformation in my professional and personal lives. The staff member who answered the Institute’s 800-number explained a whole new venue for practicing nursing. Legal nurse consulting sounded so exciting, I signed up for the next CLNC Certification Seminar.
This was a daring feat for my family. We were already in major debt with virtually no money to spare. But my life on the streets paid off – I could take risks because I knew nothing worse could happen to me. I used “OPM” (other people’s money), charging the course tuition, flight and hotel room. I wore borrowed business attire and ate cereal in my room at night to save on meals.
I was determined to continue on this new path, and I didn’t let anyone or anything stop me. Nurses, doctors and some legal professionals tried to undermine my resolve. They told me there was no need for this service in my area. I proved them all wrong.
My Income Tripled as a CLNC® Consultant – And So Did My Time Off
In less than one year after receiving my CLNC Certification, I almost tripled my income while at the same time tripling my time off. At 10:00am today, still in my PJs, with 31 inches of snow on the ground, I have already made $500.
One of my favorite assignments is sitting in on depositions. This is my chance to shine. When my attorney-client struggles to pronounce the medical terms, I pass him notes. Sometimes we can’t help but laugh together. It’s great having this valuable knowledge lawyers need to make their cases. I know more about what the attorney-client wants and needs than he does.
Recently, I had the glorious opportunity to attend an event where I hobnobbed with the New York State Bar Association LAP director, a former district attorney from a county near my home and about 100 attorneys and their families. I found my niche, and I felt comfortable with and supported by this group. I received three nursing home cases and two med-mal cases from this one weekend.
I love the challenge of creating a new freedom and a new happiness I never knew existed before. I also have the freedom to “give back” by participating in social service activities such as the state nurses’ association peer assistance program.
The CLNC® Certification Program Set Me on a Lifetime Path to Honor, Dignity and Success
I am the proud mother of a five-year-old son, and I have the time to go to his plays and other school activities. I take computer and business classes and attend writing seminars.
My husband is building me a beautiful office in our home. I picked the color pink because it’s bright and happy, and I’ll be spending a lot of time there reviewing cases. I’ll also have my own website, thanks to a university program in which students build web pages for credit. My new career as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant is coming together, just as Vickie said it would, along with my new image. I love dressing up in real clothes instead of constantly wearing scrubs. I go to a salon now to have my hair done, and I look like a woman again.
I’m not married to a hospital anymore, and my work is fun, interesting and lucrative. I call the shots, and I love not reporting to anyone. I dance all the way to the bank. The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song said it just right: “We’re gonna make it after all.”
The Student Was Ready and the Teacher Appeared
Vickie Milazzo and her illustrious staff have put together an awesome program I can grow old with. At 46, I’ve done my share of being on call and working long hours with no lunch break, too many patients and a crabby staff. I can work as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant till I’m 80.
Sometimes I feel like Vickie is sitting on my shoulder. If I feel stuck, I hear her saying, “Just do it!” and it works. She empowered me to come out of my shell.
At one legal conference I attended, a presenter said, “If you can get a good legal nurse consultant, you’ll be blessed.” I went up and gave him my card, because Vickie’s voice was in my ear, reminding me to network, network, network.
For years I lived through hell, often without enough money to buy a sandwich. Now, by the grace of God and Vickie Milazzo, I earn $125 an hour. It’s a miracle. I traveled a long, hard way from the streets, but only when I found Vickie’s CLNC Certification Program did I discover the path I was meant to take. The joy is in the journey. Today I am a woman of honor and dignity and a successful Certified Legal Nurse Consultant.
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