Insight: Spring 2008

Spring 2008

Jessie Cuevas: One Student's Journey

By Cliff Meyer

When Jessie Cuevas (BSN '08) arrived in the United States in 1988, he was fresh out of high school and ready to work to help support his family in Guadalajara, Mexico. In his first months, he found a laundry job at what is now Providence Everett Medical Center and began adjusting to the culture and language of his new home.

Jessie Cuevas

And then came the agonizing abdominal pain.

Cuevas was hospitalized at Providence for weeks, diagnosis uncertain. Finally, he learned it was intestinal cancer. At age 19. "There was nothing anyone could say to alleviate my fears, my pain, and my anxiety," he recalls. His only nearby family was a sister.

One day, a registered nurse he remembers as "Fe" walked into his room, and gave him a bath. "I felt her kindness in her touch, a soothing energy, traveling up my heart," Cuevas says. "A feeling of hope began to glimmer deep inside. I went to surgery and four weeks later, I was discharged."

Cuevas recovered and never saw Fe again. But her impact on him was profound. "She taught me that despite adverse circumstances, caring is a powerful medicine." He decided to go into nursing. In 1996, Cuevas graduated from Everett Community College and became a registered nurse at the hospital where he had already been in housekeeping, food services, transport and other positions.

Now 38, Cuevas is pursuing his bachelor's degree through UW Bothell to increase his nursing skills and gain further respect within the profession. The UW Bothell Nursing Program's Northern Counties initiative in Mount Vernon is a great fit, he says. "Again and again, the University strives to provide high quality education in a flexible and efficient manner without compromising the program's intended content."

Cuevas, who has been cancer-free since his hospitalization, expects to receive his BSN later this year, but doesn't feel finished with school. He's considering a master's degree in nursing or a biology degree that would enable him to become a middle school life sciences teacher.

As he says, "Every goal is achievable if one puts his mind to it. Desire is the key factor."