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Washington Post highlights work of Virginia cardiac care nurse

April 15, 2004 -- A lengthy article by Avis Thomas-Lester in today's Washington Post tells the story of a Maryland military intelligence analyst and the Virginia nurse and transplant coordinator who helped him through the lengthy process of heart transplantation. Overall the story gives a good sense of the important care nurses can provide in this context.

The piece focuses on Micheal King, who had a "malfunctioning" heart, and Tonya Kraus, an experienced cardiac care nurse and transplant coordinator at Inova Fairfax Hospital. It describes how the two "worked together" for two years, as Kraus helped King understand that he needed a new heart and explore pre-transplant options. King received an external pump to help him pending a transplant, which he received at the end of March. A few statements in the piece may reinforce the hand-holding image of nursing--it stresses how King and Kraus "prayed together," and how Kraus "started to cry" when King said he wanted to thank the donor's family just before his transplant. But it also seems that Kraus was the primary human source of cardiac care information for the piece, and she is quoted repeatedly describing the process of preparing for, obtaining, and recovering from a heart transplant. The article notes that King became so knowledgeable about the pump he received, the Thoratec Biventricular Assist Device, that he "assisted Kraus in seminars on the device."

In general, the piece does an unusually good job of keeping the focus on Kraus, the person who appears to have actually coordinated King's care over the length of his illness. Inexplicably, the only photo in the web version of the story is of the surgeon who implanted the new heart, a figure who plays only a minor role in the story itself. But Kraus and King reportedly appear in several large photos in the print version. At one point, when the article explains how King will learn about diet, exercise and his new medications, it appears to lapse into the common journalistic habit of describing important elements of care in which nurses will likely play a key role in passive, impersonal terms, as if they simply occurred, without effort by specific skilled professionals. However, on the whole the piece effectively highlights Kraus' important contributions to cardiac health.

See Avis Thomas-Lester's article "With New Heart, a New Journey: [Maryland] Man, Aided by Nurse, Receives Pump, Then Transplant" in the April 15, 2004 edition of the Washington Post.


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