With Mother's Day approaching this weekend, we're highlighting a mother and daughter who have a close relationship that's both personal and professional.
Amber Givens, 38, and her mom, Julie Horton, 57, work together in the mother-baby unit at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with them on a park bench near the hospital entrance on their way to begin their regular 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. overnight shift.
Givens lives in Central City and went into nursing four years ago as her second career. Horton lives in Lewisburg and has been a nurse for more than 30 years.
Horton: I never dreamed that my daughter Amber would become a nurse. She expressed that she was interested and she started school. And then she graduated. And I'm just overjoyed that she is a nurse. All my girls are nurses. I have four children, and all the three girls are nurses, the last one just graduated.
Miller: You must have influenced them somehow.
Horton: Maybe a little bit.
Miller: What was it like working through the COVID pandemic here at the hospital?
Horton: Challenging. A lot of precautions taken. And I did get COVID. So that was challenging, as well.
Miller: When did you get that?
Horton: It was right after Thanksgiving. I was out six weeks with it.
Miller: Do you know how you caught it? Are you able to track that?
Horton: We tracked it to a visitor who was unaware that he was positive.
Miller: And you were wearing, I guess you were wearing protective gear, right?
Horton: Yes, ma'am. At all times.
Miller: So, do we know how that happens?
Horton: We do not.
Miller: How badly did COVID affect you?
Horton: Moderate to severe respiratory issues, severe fatigue, extremely low heart rate. I was in bed for weeks.
Miller: How did you deal with that, sort of, emotionally?
Horton: You know, I've done so much research on it that I knew what was happening. And I have all these resources around me as far as my co-workers and providers. And we were in constant touch every day through texting. So, I felt secure that I was being taken care of. So, I was okay.
Miller: Were you hospitalized at all?
Horton: I was not, only because I refused to go.
Miller: What kind of perspective does that give you? I mean, being in a hospital where I'm sure there were cases and there was a COVID unit, I guess.
Horton: I became a major supporter of the vaccine. Get your vaccines. Protect yourself because you do not want COVID. It is hard on you.
Miller: And so, you're in, what is it called, the mother-baby unit? Or what's it called?
Horton: Mother-baby postpartum unit, and the nursery is over there as well.
Miller: Have you been doing that for a long time?
Horton: I have. My specialty is babies. And that's where my heart is, is with those babies.
Miller: It must be challenging to be a nurse for a long time because you see so much. You know, some good, some not so good. How do you keep your spirits up?
Horton: All the differences I've made in these babies lives right up front gives me great joy and pleasure. And I love coming to work. And every day you learn something new. I love it.
Miller: I'm going to go to Amber. Amber, so I guess I'll ask where you went to nursing school. And why did you do that?
Givens: I went to Western Kentucky University. And I became a nurse because I got to hear all the stories of my mom being a nurse as I grew up. And I was just always really intrigued at the dinner table to hear her be like ‘oh, I had a really hard night’ or ‘I had a really great night.’ And so that was already instilled in me. And then I've always been someone that's attracted to like case management and nursing and taking care of the person also not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally, so…
Miller: Did you have another career before nursing?
Givens: Yeah, when I was seven, the Little Mermaid came out and I was singing the little part which goes ‘Ah’ over and over and over and my mom thought it was the DVD playing, and or the VHS rather, date myself a little bit. And she came upstairs and said ‘What are you doing? Turn that down. You've been playing it all night’ and I'm like ‘Mom, I'm singing. It's not even on.’ So, she started putting me in voice lessons. So, my first time around, I was trying to get my bachelor's in opera theater. Professional vocalist for many years now. Opened for Keith Urban, Sawyer Brown, Everly Brothers. Yeah, it was 2001. It was at the homecoming concert that they give in Central City. And that was the year that Keith Urban headlined, too. And I had some real fun times with him and his little posse.
Miller: What do you sing when you open for the Everly Brothers or Keith Urban?
Givens: So, it's funny, when I, when we came here in ‘96 I was singing nothing but opera and classical musical theater. When we came down here, I noticed that my audience kind of changed and not so much classical voice, but more so in the country and gospel. So, I started singing country and I found that I'm pretty good at this. This actually works and my opera training gave me that range, so... And then I went to Nashville and spent about a year or two there singing in Tootsie’s and all kinds of places on Broadway and stuff. So, it was really cool. Good times.
Miller: You are a professional singer?
Givens: Yeah. And I still do it. And I still, you know, have paying gigs from time to time, of course, COVID kinda put the axe on that for the last year, but I'm definitely ready to go back to the stage at any point. So, I also was Miss Gold Rush Plus America in California. So I was a beauty queen. And did the whole shebang while you're there. I mean, make a memorable, right?
Miller: Wait, Miss Gold Rush…?
Givens: Miss Gold Rush Plus America. It's a California state title for beauty pageants for plus size women. Well, I like to come in with a bang, you know, and I like to make my mark, wherever I go.
Miller: You and your mom seem to have a great sense of humor, even though I'm sure you work in a very difficult profession.
Givens: We have to have humor, because it makes it a lot more tolerable, especially in hardship. And you know, when you have patients that definitely need the best of you, you have to find that somewhere.
Miller: How do you like working with your mom, I mean, you work together in the same floor, the same unit?
Givens: Well, it's funny because we actually like each other. So, we do quite well. We know each other so well, and get along so well, that we're able to anticipate the needs of each other, as well. So, we make a really great dynamite team, especially night shift, because it's long and it's tiring.
Miller: So, for Mother's Day, this year, it's been a very difficult year, the past year, for a lot of people. What kind of guidance would you have for mothers and daughters, or any kind of secret to getting along so well?
Givens: I think, just understanding that we all have our flaws. We all have things that are gonna get on each other's nerves. I know that me and my daughter, we have our little things that get on each other's nerves. But I know that with all my heart, I love that kid. And there's nothing that will ever change that. So I put, you know, all my time and energy into making sure that her life is better than mine. And my mom did the same for all of us kids. She made sure she worked super hard, so that we have a better life now. And obviously, this is a testament right now, to where we work together really well.
Miller: So, Julie, I just want to ask you, is there any guidance you would give for mothers and daughters, since we're coming up on Mother's Day?
Horton: Just know that everybody is going to have their strengths and weaknesses and that love between a mom and a daughter is just so strong. And women are just such strong individuals that, you know, anything's possible.
Miller: Thank you. Thank you so much, Julie and Amber.
Givens & Horton: Thank you. Thank you.
Miller: I've been talking with nurses Julie Horton and her daughter Amber Givens.