All the nurses here are pretty amazing, and one of the sunshiny faces at UTMB is Nurse Tierra Deschner, who holds the record around here for always, and I mean always, sharing her big smile! Tierra grew up in Kingsport, TN and says she remains a Tennessee girl at heart, despite living many other interesting places.
So Tierra, how did you get into this career?
Way back when, I had 3 jobs... one at Krispy Kreme (laughs), seriously! I cleaned houses, and worked as a cashier at Walmart, but I said, enough of that, and headed to college in Radford, VA. I became an RN in 1997 and worked in Med/Surge on a unit that was also a step-down for ICU, at Roanoke Community Hospital. I also worked for the Public Health Department, but went back to Tennessee in 2003 where I worked in Home Health, Hyperbarics and Wound Care. I’ve dealt with everything from lightning strikes to brown recluse spider bites to gangrene, you name it!
Wow, definitely the seasoned veteran! What brought you to Galveston?
My husband is a native Texan. We met in Tennessee while he was working as a traveling Anesthesia tech; we fell in love and 3 years later we were married. He convinced me to move to Texas, and we’ve been here 5 years now. I came to UTMB for a job on the FARU (Flight Analog Research Unit) and I also work in the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC)… we nurses are responsible for space study protocols on the FARU; and on the GCRC, we have protocols in vaccine studies, metabolism studies, liver and muscle biopsies, breast cancer/cervical cancer, HIV, porphyria, and angioedema… to name a few.
No wonder we only see you 4 days a week on the rotation! Is there a workload difference between dealing with ill patients and healthy subjects?
Sick people are definitely more of a challenge. However, you subjects do experience a lowered immune system while on bed rest. Any seemingly minor thing can become a big deal, very quickly. Even in “healthy subjects,” we need to be constantly looking for anything that could develop into a health issue.
Do you think you could ever do this bed rest thing?
Oh, probably not. I think it takes more courage than what I have! It takes a lot of dedication. This is definitely a nursing job where you'll learn something new every day, not only about science, but about the human body and how amazing it is. With all the natural stresses subjects go through in testing, it’s incredible how the body adapts and rebounds. It’s especially interesting in the beginning and end of Bed Rest. It may seem easy on the surface – but it takes special people to carry out these studies.
Flattery will get you everywhere… and we're glad you are monitoring so closely!
(laughs) Thank you. I love my job! I really do, I enjoy coming here every day. It is great meeting people from different states, with such a variety of personalities. We get to meet people from all over the country. Coming to Texas and working for NASA was a dream come true, and I feel it’s an honor to be here. I was not a ‘typical’ little girl. I had NASA stuff all over my bedroom… space mobiles, toy spaceships, models of the Apollo rockets, satellites hanging from the ceiling… I got $2.25 a week for my allowance, and that was where all my money went! I even had this little lamp in the shape of a ball that reflected stars and constellations onto the wall. I never dreamed that someday I would have this opportunity.
That’s awesome… Have you met any astronauts?
Yes I have, Don Thomas – and I got my picture with him! He came here to talk about what it was like to be in space, and he was an excellent presenter… Interacted with all the subjects, and signed autographs. Others have come through to shake hands and talk to people, but Don really stuck out in my mind for all the time he spent. My dream now is to see a liftoff up close someday in Florida.
Definitely worth the trip!