When does a routine doctor’s appointment become the highlight of your day? When you’re Samantha Lademann—and you’ve just spotted your all-time favorite nurse walking through Gillette’s doors. For Lademann, that nurse is Jessie Brunotte, R.N.
Lademann’s father, with his daughter for the appointment, couldn’t help but notice that Brunotte shared her joy at the surprise encounter. “My dad remarked that he’d never seen a nurse so happy to see someone,” laughs Lademann. “He thought Jessie was a friend of mine!”
The term ‘friend’ isn’t entirely inaccurate. Though caregiver is Brunotte’s primary role, she’s played others: cheerleader, advocate—and yes, friend—when Lademann needed it most.
After Accident, Major Surgery Looms
Lademann, 33, has cerebral palsy. She first met Brunotte in May 2014, during an appointment with palliative care physician Scott Schwantes, M.D., to address her chronic pain. Lademann, who had recently moved back to Minnesota from out-of-state, was struck by Brunotte’s kindness. “This time,” she thought, “it’s going to be different.”
In the months to come, Schwantes and Brunotte helped Lademann successfully manage her pain. She achieved things like wearing jeans, and holding her baby nephew without discomfort, that she once considered impossible.
But Christmastime 2014 brought a major bump in the road. On a cruise with her family, Lademann fell—and aggravated an already problematic issue with her knee. An appointment with orthopedic surgeon Jennifer Laine, M.D., brought unwelcome news: she needed corrective surgery, but must lose weight before the procedure could take place. “There was no hand-holding or sugar-coating,” recalls Lademann.
The conversation, though difficult, inspired Lademann to change the course of her life.
Support During Good Times and Hard Times
By summer 2015, Lademann had lost 30 pounds—enough to move forward with major orthopedic surgery to reconstruct her damaged knee. She admits the weight loss process brought frustration and credits Brunotte’s support with pushing her forward. “Jessie believed in me, even when I questioned myself.”
A lengthy recovery followed Lademann’s surgery. As she relearned skills like sitting, walking and climbing stairs, she relished in sharing milestones with Brunotte. “Jessie didn’t disappear from my life. She celebrated those victories with me,” says Lademann.
Lademann says Laine stood by her, too. “Dr. Laine didn’t just do the surgery and that was it. She was in my corner and still is.”
Lademann’s milestones went beyond the physical. As her weight loss continued, she reached other achievements, which she shared with Brunotte and her Gillette team: fulfilling her longtime dream of fitting into a women’s North Face jacket and re-enrolling in college at the University of Minnesota. She hopes, one day, to become a Child Life Specialist.
Surprise Milestone Marks Life-Changing Year
On Christmas Eve 2015, Lademann had a surprise in store for her family. Now 90 pounds lighter and after weekly physical therapy at Gillette, she prepared to do something unprecedented: walk independently up the steps of her church’s altar to perform a reading at mass. “Jaws will hit the floor!” predicted Lademann to Brunotte. And she was right.
The accomplishment marked the culmination of a year that’s forever altered not only Lademann’s physical health, but her outlook on life. Lademann says that sometimes she pinches herself to make sure it’s real.
“Dr. Laine and Gillette have given me an incredible gift and I’m not going to waste it,” she says of her future.
Brunotte says Lademann, in turn, has brought sunshine to her life. “Finding out what her dreams were, getting to know her, has been rewarding personally and professionally,” she says. “Seeing her blossom has been so fun!”
Photo top left: Lademann and Brunotte are pictured at Gillette's Lifetime Clinic. Photo bottom right: Lademann practices walking independently with her physical therapist, Laura Gueron.