Suzanne Tillotson

How Suzanne Overcame Her Disability and Excels

May 24 2021

Suzanne Tillotson, a nurse at Bon Secours St. Francis Downtown, has Meniere’s disease and vestibular hypofunction. However, with persistence, therapy and hard work, she has overcome these obstacles and excels in her passion for nursing.

For Suzanne, physical therapy has been key.

Suzanne’s hearing started to diminish about ten years ago, worsened suddenly and required a labyrinthectomy. All of this resulted in a total loss of hearing. In 2020, she had cochlear implants put in both ears. 

“Being deaf on one side was challenging, but workable,” Suzanna shares. “My other ear was initially strong but worsened. The vestibular function was a challenge. I went months without being able to stand, walk, hold down food, or go to a store. I fell 36 times in one week and these were attempts to simply attempt physical therapy. Physical therapy became my addiction and my saving grace.”

Suzanne says it initially took four months for her to regain normal function. She continues to participate in vestibular therapy four to six hours a week in order to maintain her abilities. This diligence with physical therapy has been the key to her success.

“I was determined to come back to work as nursing is my heart,” she says.

Suzanne’s journey into nursing

Suzanne worked for an ophthalmologist for 16 years. She enjoyed it but always felt there was something missing.

“I decided to go to nursing school after I had my youngest child. It was the best decision I made in my professional life.”

Suzanne first thought about nursing as a professional when she was in the hospital giving birth. She noticed how much nurses care for their patients and wanted that feeling.

“St. Francis has been and continues to be an awakening for me. There is a calling to be here.”

During Suzanne’s first day in orientation, she thought there could be no place this loving. Then, the second day, team members were giving speeches about their work and how much they loved it.

“I was hooked by day three,” she shares. “I came to work with new purpose.”

Her love for nursing grows

Suzanne has been with our ministry for four years and loves being a nurse more than anything.

“Otherwise, I would not have worked so hard to regain my physical abilities,” she says. “I love connecting with my patients on a personal level and finding out what makes them happy and comfortable. I love the God-given ability to calm a chaotic situation or a grieving family. I love being a nurse because God put me here. I would never consider leaving. I’d like to grow here.”

Suzanne also explains that many people with hearing loss feel as if their careers are ending.

“People with vestibular hypofunction feel as if their lives are over. However, one must only be willing to do the work to recover.”

Suzanne tries to remember she is in control and works hard to maintain a normal life.

“It could not be achieved without the support of a loving work environment. But it can be done.”

Enjoy stories that celebrate our amazing Bon Secours nurses during Nurses’ Month.

Also, learn about the health care services we offer at Bon Secours.

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