Hannah Shelton was a freshman in high school when she began having debilitating migraines without explanation. After multiple visits to the emergency room and various urgent care clinics, care providers still couldn’t pinpoint what was causing her terrible headaches.

Eventually, she ended up at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital. Dr. Shana Wallace, a pediatric neurologist, helped Shelton get to the bottom of her migraines. She was diagnosed with status migraineosus – a severe type of migraine that can last for more than 72 hours. Sometimes the pain and nausea associated with this type of headache can lead to hospitalization.

Shelton was sometimes hospitalized to receive an IV of fluids and medication as part of her treatment. One of Shelton’s longest stays at Hemby Children’s Hospital stretched 42 days. While confined to the four walls of her room, Shelton began to take interest in two things: Creating art and watching nurses do their job.

Instead of sitting in bed all day watching TV, she began to draw and paint with the art supplies that child life specialists gave her.

“Art helped me emotionally, physically and mentally,” Shelton said. “I could express my thoughts and feelings. It made the room less dull and it even improved my health because of the joy it brought.”

And because Shelton spent so much time in the hospital, she became friends with the nurses on her unit.

“Art allowed me to meet a lot of people, even during the time I was stuck in my room,” Shelton said. She started giving away her paintings to team members and even painted a piece for a nurse’s baby shower.

During her hospital stays, she also gained a lot of insights into how nurses care for patients. 

“Seeing the family atmosphere as a patient at Hemby Children’s Hospital made me want that in a career,” Shelton said. “I had always been interested in medicine and knew I’d want a career in caring for people or animals, but I learned a lot while I was a patient.”

So much so that when Shelton, now 19, started school to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), her instructors were surprised by how much she already knew. Shelton was well-versed in taking manual blood pressures and vital signs, making hospital beds and using a sterile technique based on her own experiences as a patient.

Shelton’s CNA instructor knew of a job opening at Novant Health Matthews Medical Center and suggested she apply for it.

From patient to provider

Shelton began working at Matthews Medical Center in March 2018 and immediately knew that her experience as a patient could translate into her professional life.

“I remember Dr. Wallace would come into my room and sit on my bed to talk about treatment plans,” Shelton said. “That may not work for every patient, but she knew me and made my experience personal. After experiencing that as a patient, I want to find ways to personalize the experience for my patients.”

Shelton is still receiving treatment for her migraines and said one of her first patients on the medical- surgical unit at Matthews Medical Center was about to receive radiation treatment for the first time.

“I had just gone through radiation as part of my treatment,” Shelton said. “I was able to speak about it from a personal perspective and help ease their nerves.”

As far as her career path, Shelton is open to a variety of things. She started her own business called Chronically Painted and has many interests in the medical field. “I’d love to stay with Novant Health for a long time,” Shelton said. “I’ve considered anesthesiology, nursing and patient relations. I’m interested in caring for people any way that I can.”