All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2002

Life of nursing and a passion for life fuel second career as college teacher

October 22, 2002
Ozzie Roberts

 In 1962, Jan Scott's 20th year, doctors in Denver were baffled by what caused this then-budding nurse with the photographic memory to suddenly lose motor function and lapse into a months-long coma.

They thought it might have been anything from depression to brain cancer. They even performed unnecessary brain surgery.

And before a physician, who was a friend of the family, correctly diagnosed multiple sclerosis seven years later, Scott paid, dearly, for the confusion.

She was left, for a time, little more than "a vegetable," unable to speak or write, let alone recall any of the knowledge she'd picked up about the only profession she'd ever wanted to get into.

She was so bad off for a while that one of her own doctors recommended that she be placed in a state institution.

But today, at 61, a scrappy, irrepressible Scott, with a bright smile and twinkling eyes, says, clearly and precisely: "It's so wonderful when people's lives touch each other and they intertwine. And you see God at work."

She is emphatic about that because in her hours of greatest need, she was married to a man a doctor who, when it counted, was her best friend and protector who refused to give up on her.

She had an extended family and friends who would always more than pick up the slack for her husband.

And she had a mothering speech therapist and mentor, who, in addition to getting her back to writing, speaking and recalling all she'd learned, also tutored her right back into the realm of medicine.

Now after nearly 40 years in nursing, most as a registered nurse, Scott has retired with very few regrets and lots of fond memories.

Period. The end. Good night.

Not quite.

We're writing about Jan Scott here.

This is the same Jan Scott, who was adopted as Janice Kay by an Iowa farmer and his wife, a nurse. Both, before they died, instilled a strong work ethic and an even stronger inner strength.

It's the same Jan Scott who bolstered all of the outside help she'd receive in her darkest times with a seemingly boundless determination never to say I quit.

So in retirement, which she made official in August from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in San Diego, she's continuing to do what she's also done for the past seven years: teach nursing what else? at City College.

Scott admits that the degenerative nature of the disease attacking her nervous system largely influenced her decision to step away from the hectic pace of an active nurse.

But she quickly adds that the transition won't be bad at all.

"I love teaching nursing," she says. "It's so ideal for me because I get the enthusiasm from the students. They're so bright and have worked so hard just like I had.

"And to see the light bulb go on when they get it, it just warms my heart it does."

Teaching the profession also takes Scott back to when she was a nurse, and for her that's almost like being back on call.

"It was such a fun time, such a hard time, such a challenge," the 24-year Bird Rock resident says.

She'll be doing more than just teaching, too.

Scott is past president of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and she remains active in the organization. She also keeps busy with activities such as embroidery, tatting and mosaic making.

"I love my crafts and hobbies," she says.

Yet if all of that sounds as if she'll be just as busy as she was before retiring, she doesn't think so.

In fact she's hepped up on getting training to also be a volunteer tutor with the Laubach Literacy Council. The program teaches mainly foreign-born adults how to read English.

And Scott says she's strongly motivated to get into teaching reading by the same deeply personal considerations that guide her in teaching nursing.

"When I'm in the classroom, I feel like I'm getting more from the students than they're getting from me," she says. "But I teach and want to do this (tutoring) because I've had so many people help me in my life. And when you've gotten so much, you've got to give something back."

© Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.