- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - Hands always play a large part in our lives, from holding a child’s hand for a walk across the street to holding an elderly loved one’s hand as he or she passes away.

As a registered nurse at Campbell County Memorial Hospital, Julae Peterson understands the importance hands have in people’s lives, from giving patients comfort and aid, along with cooking with her mother and grandmother.

To celebrate that importance, Peterson has written and now published a book, “The Hand You Hold.”

Originally, she made one copy of the book in 2012 to surprise her mom and grandma with as a Christmas gift. The book is a lengthy poem about the importance of hands in people’s lives, along with photos of her and her family’s hands with things they had made with them, such as blankets.

“I had them pull out different things that were memorable to her: things that she had made, things that she had sewn,” Peterson said. “Then we did the four generations: myself, my son, my mom and then my grandma. Through that I created a story about the hands that you hold, things about the generations that you have and what family means.”

After showing the book to other family members, they urged Peterson to try publishing the book.

“I started to research different publishing companies and what they offer, because it’s a big market out there,” Peterson said.

Eventually a Christian publishing house, Tate Publishing, decided to take it on. Tate created a different version of the book that has the same text but different images that’s now available nationwide on amazon.com and tatepublishing.com. People also can get copies of the book from Peterson.

Peterson also created a new version of the book for Mother’s Day this year as a surprise again for her mother and grandmother.

“It’s been a nice surprise; it’s been a lot of work. It’s very hard to market a book; it’s almost impossible,” Peterson said. “It’s been fun. It’s neat to see it unfold and it’s something I can show my kids as they grow up.”

She thought about people’s hands and how no matter how old people get, their hands are always used for making things, comforting each other and helping each other.

“We do a lot of cooking and baking and sewing together, and working in health care, we hold people’s hands at the bedside, and we take our children’s hands walking across the street,” she said. “I think our hands are a unique gift. Your face shows wrinkles and your body shows age as well, but I think your hands are special because they seem kind of timeless in a way.”

Peterson has had time to use her hands as a nurse and think about their implications in the hospital. Peterson has nearly 10 years at the hospital under her belt, including 18 months on the medical floor, six years in the emergency room and now two years in the outpatient surgery department.

“The ER was my favorite. I liked the fact that you never knew what you were going to have coming in that day,” she said. “It was unpredictable and it was fast-paced and you had to think on your feet. I just loved it. I think we made a huge difference.”

Her decision to become a nurse also was influenced by helping hands. When she was 9 years old, she had to have her tonsils removed at the Gillette hospital, and the nurse who helped her, Jari Baughman, left her mark.

“She took care of me as a little girl when I had my tonsils out and that was back in the early ‘90s when we had big hair and long fingernails and she had bright lipstick and she was amazing. And literally since I was 9 years old, I decided I wanted to be a nurse,” Peterson said.

Little did she know that more than a decade later she’d be working alongside Baughman, who is still a nurse at the hospital.

“That was like the highlight of my nursing career. I could not believe that 15 years later she was still here, so that was pretty cool,” Peterson said. “From the time I was a little girl until I grew up and through college, we stayed in contact, so I’ve known her literally my entire life.”

Sometimes, she’s had to use her hands in both her capacity as a nurse and as a mother at the same time, such as in 2013 when her son - now 3 - stopped breathing. Suffering from a seizure disorder, he stopped breathing when he was 10 months old.

“We were transported to the ER here and admitted to the ICU. He stopped breathing six more times that day, and we were life-flighted to Denver,” Peterson said. “He stopped breathing when he was at home with us, so we were right there. … It was the worst experience of my life, quite frankly.”

That happened two days before Christmas, which they ended up spending in a Denver hospital.

“But I can’t complain, because we had a baby to bring home,” Peterson said.

Through all her times as a nurse and a mother, she’s used her hands and has seen others use their hands to comfort, guide and help people, and she wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.

“I love being a nurse. It’s incredibly rewarding, and I think we make a huge difference,” she said.


Information from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record, https://www.gillettenewsrecord.com

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