Photo Jason Huynh
In 2008, Sharon Seabolt wasn’t exactly a traditional nursing school student. At 58 years old, Seabolt was accepted into Kennesaw State University’s prestigious school of nursing. She was one of 82 students chosen out of 1,000 applicants that semester and she’ll be the first to tell you, since then her life has never been the same. Seabolt now works as a hospice nurse for Heyman Hospice out of Floyd Medical Center in Rome, Georgia and spends her days caring for patients and families going through some of the hardest times in their lives. Her devotion and care for her patients comes from a love of people and a deep understanding of what they are going through.
Seabolt has had a lifelong desire to help care for people, saying, “When I was a senior in high school, my plan was to go to nursing school at the Georgia Baptist Hospital School of Nursing, and I was dating a wonderful man named Ken. Ken was graduating from college that same year and he was going to serve in the military because we were in the middle of the Vietnamese War. I was going to finish nursing school while he served in the war and then we were going to get married when he came back.”
The two had met on a school bus, when Ken was a senior in high school. Seabolt had a broken leg, and Ken gave up his seat on the bus so that she would not have to stand. That act of chivalry won Seabolt over, and they were together from then on.
In the spring before her graduation from high school, Ken took her to the Dallas Drag Strip to see a new race car driver, Richard Petty. In the middle of the race, Petty had a terrible accident that led to the injuries of several people and the death of a young boy. “As a 17 year old, I held that child and realized that I just don’t think I could be a nurse because I couldn’t handle death and dying,” she explains. “So, I gave up my nursing scholarship and instead of going to school that summer, Ken and I got married. He then got a marriage deferment, keeping him from getting drafted or going to Vietnam. I went into dental hygiene because that was a safe thing to do. I could help people take care of their mouths and nobody died from having their teeth cleaned,” she says. Seabolt worked as a dental hygienist until she and Ken started a family several years later. She later worked several jobs as a school bus driver, a school bus driving instructor, a special service officer for Dekalb County and a secretary for many different organizations. But everything changed when Ken became very sick.
In August of 2005, Ken passed away from cancer and Seabolt had her first encounter with hospice care. “In the summer that Ken was home with cancer and in hospice care, I felt very much that God was leading me to go back to school and get a nursing degree. Of course, I really didn’t want to because I was 58 years old,” she recalls. “I said ‘no, I don’t think so- I’m too old and I need to go back to work,’ but that’s not what God’s plan was, and so all of the things that I said no to, God said yes to. Finally, in January of 2006 I gave in and went back to school at Kennesaw State.”
After her graduation, Seabolt went to work for Floyd Medical Center in their med-surg floor and worked there for a year until she was approached by Dr. Buford Harbin about becoming a hospice nurse. Seabolt says, “I laughed all the way home that day because I said, ‘God, the very thing that kept me from being a nurse 40 years ago is what you want me to do.’ But, I applied and went to work as a Hospice nurse in 2009.”
Now over ten years later, Seabolt’s desire to care for others has not wavered, saying, “I love patient care tremendously. I like being in people’s lives and being able to help them, and the neatest thing about being a Hospice nurse is that we don’t just have a patient, we have a family and so it’s a very holistic approach. We look at all aspects of care.” Seabolt not only spends her time treating patients, but also training nurses and teaching courses. “I do enjoy teaching a lot and I have had the privilege to precept students from the schools of nursing at both Berry and Shorter. I have precepted some of our doctors who are in training at Floyd Medical Center. They come and ride with us to see what Hospice is all about. I also do lots of health care training for staff at assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities in some of the things that they are trying to keep their CNA’s and their staff trained in such as catheter care and wound care. That’s one of the areas that I really enjoy working in is wound care. Currently, I’m working towards a specialty degree and certification in wound care.” She is already certified as a Hospice and Palliative nurse which is a step beyond being a BSN RN.
While technically retired, Seabolt stays busier than ever and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
Outside of the hospital, Seabolt has used her training to aid those in the Horn of Africa and in London, England and plans to be more involved in experiences like those in the future. But she says that her favorite thing is spending time with her family. “I love being a grandma. I have four grown granddaughters and we do a lot of fun things together. I live next door to my family which is a privilege because we do eat dinner together every night. I’m very active in my church, I love my ladies group that I meet with on Sunday mornings. We are great prayer warriors and we spend a lot of time laughing and having a good time together but my main goal is trying to do things that help other people.”