I was born and raised in New Orleans, where my parents lived for 26 years. I grew up in a Christian home, active in youth group and attended a small private Christian School, Clifton L Ganus, which was sadly lost in Katrina. Most of the other side of my mom’s family lived (and still lives) in West Monroe, LA. I was truly raised by a southern mom, who followed the “southern handbook” closely. She was a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) who maintained a very clean and structured home. I said “yes mam and no mam”, rarely wore pants (an ironed dress was preferable), no white after Labor Day and faithfully attended church every time the doors opened! I was an only child until the age of 8 when my parents made the decision to adopt my brother, Damien. Wow! What a life-changing event! He had been severely abused for the first 18 months of his life but by God’s plan, my mom found her way to him. My parents knew there would be some underlying disabilities but the extent would not be known until later years. He was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome and finally Asperger’s autism. Years ago autism was a rare disease with very few treatment options – but that did not stop Sherry Miller (mom!). She home-schooled him, brought in speech therapy, physical therapy and learned from them so his therapy could be given many hours per day. She taught him social skills – standing in a line, shaking someone’s hand, waiting patiently at a restaurant. He is now 37 years old and volunteers at St. Francis hospital everyday and 2 years ago was awarded Volunteer of the Year by the state of Louisiana. He is an amazing man. He is witty, extremely intelligent, knows every song ever written, knows every part of every motorcycle every built and most importantly really sees people for their inner qualities. No one is abnormal or old or weird in his eyes – he just loves everyone, a true example of Christ’s love.
I was blessed with a good mind and organizational skills which helped me excel in school, along with amazing teachers who prepared me for college. I attended Harding University initially but then transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi when my parents made the decision to relocate to Hattiesburg, MS. This is where my story gets interesting, or maybe sad... it depends on your perspective! When you are 20 years old you know everything… and I thought I was raised by strict parents and it was time I lived a little. Despite my strong Christian roots, I found it very easy to dismiss God, because after all, how much fun can a Christian girl have at a state school? God was not tangible, seemed unneeded and served no purpose for me, so I left him in my past and partied on!! When you don’t have a captain of your ship, bad decisions tend to be made and you tend to steer right into the storms. I did a lot of partying, but amazingly kept an “A” average in undergraduate school, with plans to apply and attend medical school (this was always my plan since about the age of 5… now you see what type of focused personality I was blessed with). I had a boyfriend the 4 years I attended USM, who was fun, charismatic, and president of his fraternity, but really had no future or plans for the future. I planned to say “good-bye” when I moved away to attend med school. Now with that being said, it appears he wasn’t a “serious” boyfriend for me, but our relationship existed as if it was serious and bad decisions were made. Suddenly my life changed forever…it wasn’t a stomach virus, it wasn’t food poisoning – I was pregnant. How did this happen? I had plans, specific plans – how do I attend med school now? Do I really want my boyfriend to be my child’s father? Guess I should have thought about all those things in the beginning! But the real issue was how to tell my parents that I was going to be an unwed mother? I sat in my car in the parking lot of the local abortion clinic to think these things through – this was one of the lowest points in my life; pregnant, without God, rebellious and utterly lost. In my 5th month, I developed the courage to face my mom. That drive to their house was the longest 10 minutes EVER! I had practiced what I was going to say and I was ready, or so I thought. When I walked into the kitchen, my mother started crying and I just knew somehow she had found out, but instead she announced that she and my father was divorcing after 32 years of marriage. It was not the right time to drop my bomb! My parents divorced in February 1995 and I finally announced my pregnancy shortly after that, with Kristyn being born in June 1995.
Kristyn’s birth changed me – truly changed me in a way that I have a hard time putting into words. Even though I left God, he never left me. I now see his perfect plan even through what appeared to be a sad, hopeless situation. I was now a mother, responsible for this little life that God allowed into my life. I came home from the hospital and dropped to my knees with fear, remorse and a humble spirit asking for God’s forgiveness and to please become the captain of my ship. The rest of my story can only be the work of God, I promise you can’t hear my story and not believe that something greater was at work than anything humanly possible. Single, with a newborn, my hopes of medical school vanished. I sat with an advisor, sobbing, as I said over and over “what am I going to do?” The field of nursing was suggested, but I just couldn’t envision myself in that role – I wanted independence, ability to make decisions and use my skills to develop a patient’s plan of care, not follow someone else’s plan! Applying to a nurse practitioner program was suggested – I knew nothing about this role, but with the word “nursing” I knew it wasn’t for me, but I was urged (a small voice, the right guidance counselor, GOD) to give it a try and felt compelled to follow. Two weeks later I was moving to Birmingham, AL, alone with a baby because I had been given immediate acceptance to the BSN program at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. I will never forget, truly never forget how this molded my life views and my faith in God.
Our first Sunday in Birmingham, I walked into the door of Homewood Church of Christ and forever changed. Two women met me at the door and immediately offered to take the baby to the nursery so I could just “rest and enjoy the service”. Not once did they ever look upon me with judgment, they immediately loved me. I soon became part of a family group in that church with couples that took care of Kristyn and me over the next few years. The struggle was real, I had to work, attend school full-time and take care of a baby. Money was more than tight and some days I found myself watering down the milk to make it to the next payday when I could buy more. Now here is the God part – never once did we do without. When I wondered what we would do about food, someone from church would call and invite us over for dinner. When I was struggling with bills one month (which was not public knowledge), one of the families at church paid for our electricity bill “just because I felt compelled to do something for you and your daughter”. The church daycare allowed Kristyn to attend for a reduced rate and women always volunteered to babysit if needed. I graduated from UAB in 1998 and applied for early acceptance to Samford University to begin my MSN degree and complete the nurse practitioner program. I was told “no one” gets accepted to the program until they have worked at least a year. Honestly, I didn’t have a year, I needed to begin providing for Kristyn, but I did start working right after graduation as a RN in the cardiac cath lab, which is how I found my passion for cardiology (by the way I started as the unit secretary and my boss believed in me so much, she “made jobs” for me so I could work and finish nursing school). I began to pray about this next stage in life and Samford granted me early acceptance (remember, “no one” gets early acceptance – coincidence? No, God) and I started the program just 3 months after graduating from nursing school! The next years of life consisted of working, school and clinical rotations at night with about 2-4 hours of sleep each day, sometimes I would go as much as 48 hours without sleep. Only God giving me strength those years can explain how it was possible! Close to time of graduation from Samford, my close friend Beth McDowell chatted with me about relocating to Florida so our girls could grow-up with each other. Sounded perfect- I had always wanted to live near the beach, Kristyn loved the water and having a close family friend near was icing on the cake! The only problem was there were no job openings anywhere in Tequesta or surrounding area for a nurse practitioner without experience. Beth faxed me a copy of a page in the phone book that listed cardiology offices in the area and I made a call to Stuart Cardiology Group and inquired if they were possibly looking for a nurse practitioner and explained my cardiac background. It was a pleasant call, but I was informed no openings at that time. About 2 days later the office manager called back and said the doctors have decided that a second NP would be a good idea for the practice and asked if I was still interested. Of course!! I had a phone interview and was offered the job! Now where to live? My friend Beth located a beautiful townhome for rent in about 24 hours – looks like I was moving to Palm City, FL! I graduated in May 2001 and started with Stuart Cardiology Group in July 2001, where I still work to this day! This is where God gets really good – he sustained me through undergraduate and graduate school, and placed a job in my path all to get me ready for the second most amazing blessing in my life. God had a plan, He knew what we needed and He provided. My second or third week in the office, I met a pharmaceutical representative, who introduced himself as the contact for Merck pharmaceuticals and welcomed me to the practice and invited me to an educational dinner. Mike Fronsoe was the sweetest, kindest, most sincere man I had ever met. Our friendship developed over the next few months and this is where my story turns to our story.