See ya, Indiana

The countdown app that has been programmed to remind me of September 1st for months now told me this morning that there are only three days left until Australia (or– until the flight leaves). So, this week has been full of seeing friends and family, packing, taking advantage of my last days of driving, and soaking in some baby Leo snuggles. #AuntLife

It really doesn’t feel like I’m leaving or that I won’t see some of these people in person for 10 months, maybe because it also really doesn’t feel like I’ll be living in another country in a few days. I’m so ready to board that plane and arrive at my new apartment, to meet up with my new co-workers (who are mostly post-docs or doctoral students), to attend the Victorian Fulbright Alumni get together, and to meet the other U.S. Fulbright post-grad student in Melbourne. I’m more than ready to memorize the tram routes that take me to the hospital/lab campus, the tap dance studio, and to the beach. I’m so glad my Mom (“Mum”) is able to travel with me and help get my apartment all set up and to test out all of the amazing local coffee spots (which I’m told are better than Starbucks)!

More than anything, I can’t wait to get started on my research project and to learn what it really means to be a part of the scientific search for answers to questions about familial cancer syndromes and specifically Fanconi anemia.

So, our flight leaves at 1655 on Sunday the 1st, and we arrive in Melbourne at 0730 on Monday the 3rd. Melbourne is 14 hours ahead of Indiana, so I’m trying to train myself to quickly convert times from home to Oz. When we arrive, we will head to the bank to activate my account and pick up my card, to the property manager to collect my apartment keys, and to my apartment to get all set up. We will also have a to do list for the next few days that includes filling out a Medicare application, decorating my apartment, setting up WiFi, and exploring as much as possible!

So for now: see ya, Indiana…

I’m planning to provide updates here– thanks for following along.

Roots + Wings: Post-grad

Empathy, compassion, curiosity, and a desire to grow in my quest to find new answers for medical treatment and diagnostic questions I didn’t even know existed: these are what fuel me. That, and a passion for the tiny humans, of course (as my badge reel says). ••• For the next year, I won’t be wearing a red scrub top like my peers in the IUH Ball ED or navy blue as in the St. V Peyton Manning NICU, nor will I be wearing a badge with the coveted red “RN” tag hanging below my name and photo. Instead, I have the distinct privilege of taking what I’ve learned in my nursing school clinical experiences and lectures, as well as the knowledge I’ve gained in the emergency department as a patient care assistant & in the neonatal intensive care unit as a researcher, to the other side of the world. Over the course of the next 12 months, I will be quite literally making my own version of what it means to be a registered nurse committed to the advancement of her profession.

While I have been wrestling with how exactly this life transition is going to happen and whether or not I would pass my boards [the NCLEX-RN exam]— and yes, I did!— I’ve realized in the short span of a month since graduation that perhaps I’m not supposed to follow my “safe” or “automatic” next life step. While working three 12-hour night shifts per week assuming primary nursing care of critically ill newborns in the largest level IV NICU in the state still sounds like a challenging but oh-so-rewarding dream, I know that I need to fill my own cup before I can pour into others. Being a part of FA research fills my cup. Don’t worry— I still plan on being the best neonatal health care provider I can be when I return to the states. This is just the beginning. Perhaps I’ll be able to take the 21 years of life I’ve grown in Muncie and spread my wings more than ever over the next single year in Melbourne, and I believe it will be exactly what I need to begin my professional career.

As I’ve felt the relief this week of passing the most important test in my life thus far, and as I’ve slowly checked off the vital Aussie-to-do list:

Official acceptance agreements [✔️]

Visa application [✔️]

Flight booked [ ]

Apartment lease signed [ ]

…I’ve been reflecting on how I got here and what dream I can dream next. One thing is for certain: my cloud nine is completely different than anyone else’s, so it’s only natural that my post-grad plans include cultural immersion in big city livin’, developing my nurse-scientist skills, and hopefully some happy feet + baby feet. It’s time to use my roots to find my wings. 85 days to the big move; I’m ready. 😌

—Hannah Lily, BSN, RN 👩🏼‍⚕️👣🌇🧬

Creative Arts Therapies for Babies Born of the Addicted

I have received news that has made me extremely overjoyed and honored: I was named the first Honors College James S. Ruebel Fellow for International and Innovative Experiences and community initiatives. This fellowship was named and funded as a way to honor the legacy of Dean Ruebel who passed away shortly after impacting me greatly during the transition from high school to college. He was a man of intelligence, compassion, and had a passion for sharing the experience of traveling to and learning about new communities and cultures in a hands-on manner. My freshman integrated humanities class had plans to travel to Florence and Rome, Italy, in May of 2016, but Dr. Ruebel unfortunately became ill before we departed for the trip and we traveled without him. I have wished for an opportunity to share my developing goals and passions with him in his absence, and I feel this is exactly the reason I needed to engage in my community in this way. This paid fellowship will allow me distinct reason to pursue a “big idea” I’ve had for a few months now: doing a research study in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) evaluating the impacts of movement and music therapies on babies going through drug withdrawal or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

In addition to honoring Dr. Ruebel and investigating potential non-pharmacological treatment methods for this at-risk population, I am excited for the chance to work with esteemed nurse researcher Dr. Renee Twibell in this process, as well as having several NICU RNs on our team. While the details and nature of this study are definitely still “in the works,” I have gathered research from the literature review and written a 10-page proposal in the process of applying for the fellowship and pitching the idea to Dr. Twibell, so I feel that the basis for this research is well underway. Though music therapy has been used extensively in the neonatal population and swings are often found in NICUs, I find it particularly interesting to analyze the lack of investigation into the use of movement with NAS babies, specifically.

A few highlights of the proposal and literature review include that the topics of movement therapy and NAS have not been studied extensively, meaning this study would be relatively leading-edge, and several online resources and medical researchers have published that perhaps movement interventions such as vertical rocking may “soothe a baby’s neurologic system,” (Intermountain Healthcare, 2014) though rocking beds are “not recommended in this population without further study,” (Maguire, pp. 207, 2014). So, further study, we will.

A research article published by Zuzarte, et. al. in April of 2017 showed that stochastic vibrotactile stimulation (SVS) “reduced hyperirritability and pathophysiological instabilities commonly observed in pharmacologically-managed opioid-exposed newborns [and] may provide an effective complementary therapeutic intervention for improving autonomic function in newborns with NAS.”

I could go on and on about the potential for nation-wide impact of this study, as we are facing an opioid crisis that unfortunately affects more than just the individuals physically addicted to the drugs. Though the mothers of these newborns may not realize the impact their addiction has on the future of their child, the physiological effects are real, and I believe treatments for these conditions can go far beyond pharmaceuticals. Follow my journey in this research study here! Please leave a message below if you have any input, comments, or articles you think may be beneficial for me to see.


Nobody Said You Couldn’t Fly

Today marks 100 days until Ball State Dance Marathon, so I felt it was appropriate to finally put into words my inspiration and motivation to fundraise for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) and Riley Hospital for Children.

In high school, I worked in Child Watch at the Yorktown YMCA and met families and children in my community who I still babysit for and stay connected with. One of these children is named Aria, who I met and instantly fell in love with. I started caring for Sweet Aria and her older sister, Daisy, and quickly began watching their parents advocate for both of them through unimaginable circumstances.

Sweet Aria was born with a rare, genetic blood disorder called Fanconi anemia (FA). This created anomalies in nearly every organ of her body, led to her not having thumbs, blind-deafness, and short stature. Aria overcame doctors’ prognoses and predictions simply by surviving birth, but continued to prove them wrong for nearly 5 years. Something I remember her mother, Rachael, saying multiple times was “nobody said you couldn’t fly.” This hit home for me as I watched Aria walk when they said she never would, smile at the sound of her Mommy’s voice when they said she never would, and laugh in response to tickles despite her blind-deafness and limited verbal expression.

2 years ago, Aria passed away peacefully surrounded by the love of her family. Sweet Aria’s short life impacted me in several ways. She taught me that overcoming the limits placed upon you by others is the best way to motivate others to do the same. She also inspired me to be an advocate for others. With these two lessons in mind, I decided to pursue a major in the healthcare field and to go beyond what it meant to be a nursing major.

Over the course of my time at BSU this far, I have been accepted to the school of nursing, created a pre-dance/movement therapy major through the Honors College, and added the pre-medical coursework in order to eventually become a neonatal health care provider. To impact the lives of children like Aria in the role of a health care professional is my ultimate career goal. I have also been competing in locals for the Miss Indiana Scholarship Program, in which I get to represent a platform of my choosing. The platform I created is “Fighting FA: Advocating for Individuals with Rare Diseases.” Through brainstorming with other advocates, researching connections between cancer and FA, and promoting the FARF, I am able to communicate to others what FA is and Aria’s story. My main hope for this platform is to create empathy in our community by spreading Aria’s story when others may not be able to relate to her in any way, and to raise awareness and support for the FARF and Aria’s Army.

Another aspect of the Miss Indiana Scholarship Program, as a part of the Miss America Organization, is the opportunity to fundraise for CMN Hospitals. Through this and fundraising for Riley as a Dance Marathon committee member and dancer, I have raised nearly $2,000 for hospitals locally and nationally that treat children, including those with FA.

My love for Sweet Aria inspired me to raise money for these Hospitals and her life continues to be the driving force behind my personal and professional goals. I am blessed to be an advocate through these avenues, and I don’t plan to stop any time soon.

Would you consider donating to my CMN page? It would mean the world to me and to children like Aria. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Roots and Wings in College

To appreciate the people and places who have played a role in making me who I am and to explore new spaces and ideas are the two main missions of my life in college. In other words, I want to dedicate this space to the details of my possession of both roots and wings in my undergraduate experience. As a Ball State University student who grew up in Muncie, I like to say that I am no stranger to campus. I find that my roots are undeniably grounded in this city after spending nearly 20 years here. When I began my freshman year of college in August of 2015, I didn’t know much beyond a few simple facts: I was a Whitinger Scholar, an Honors Student, and determined to make an impact on my community and my campus.  Now, two and a half years later, I look back on my time spent at Ball State thus far and feel blessed to call this place — where I have learned, explored, served, and danced — my home. This home, however, is not an anchor that holds me down. BSU’s newest brand campaign is titled “We Fly,” which depicts the image of the Beneficence statue and ties in the concept of students as cardinals in order to symbolize rising to our greatest potential, reaching out to those around us, and impacting our world with the values of excellence, integrity, responsibility, and diversity. Congruent with this metaphor of taking flight, I have most certainly found my wings at Ball State.

Though I have numerous, diverse passions, one of my biggest joys in life is when I get to use my roots to extend my wings. In these instances where I am able to impact both my campus and my Muncie community, I find I grow personally as a reflection of each experience. I endeavor to spend my time in college taking advantage of each opportunity presented to me, especially those which allow me to use both my roots and my wings.

As I listen to the performance of “Flight” from BSU’s brand reveal on Monday, I’m working to refine my own personal brand to best represent who I am. I hope to explain these past and current moments of exploration and use of my roots and wings here in the coming weeks. Thank you for reading, and leave a comment below — I would appreciate feedback on what you would enjoy reading about in the future.