From a Front-Line Soldier to the Front Lines of Nursing

By | 2022-05-11T09:41:41-04:00 November 2nd, 2021|11 Comments

I had no intention of ever being in the medical field, let alone joining the front lines of nursing.

Ian K. Chapman, RN

Growing up, I always believed I was going to be in the Army for my entire life. My father joined the Marine Corps in the ’70s, and my grandfather was in the 82nd Airborne and jumped into Normandy. My other grandfather was an Army engineer and was also there on the beaches of Normandy in 1944, and  my sister served in the Navy for over a decade. So, naturally, on my 18th birthday, I joined the Army, but my dreams of being in the Army forever didn’t last that long.

During my deployments, I served as a forward observer and was attached to an infantry battalion on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. With a radio on my back that had a 12-foot antenna, I was an easily identifiable target.

I was in an unknown number of firefights and was injured by both IEDs and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). I honestly do not know how many blast injuries I have sustained. After nine years, I was medically retired from the Army. I felt lost and had no idea what I was going to do in life.

That same year, my best friend, Frank, was expecting a baby. One day, Frank, who had been by my side through the dark times of Afghanistan and during my exit from the Army, called me in tears.

His wife, Paloma, had experienced an amniotic fluid embolism. She was unresponsive, intubated, and had undergone an emergency C-section in a hospital elevator on the way to the OR. I arrived to be there for my friends just as Paloma was awaiting transport to the ICU.

I stayed to support Frank during this crisis, “sleeping” on two chairs in the waiting room when I was able. The next day, I suddenly couldn’t walk!

I couldn’t feel my legs or move without agony. I had to be transported to the ER and was sent for an MRI. My intervertebral disc had herniated so badly onto my spinal cord that the physician said it was the largest herniation he had ever seen.

The injury was a result of the injuries I sustained during my time in the Army. The disc had apparently been bulging for a long time and had herniated spontaneously.

I was scheduled for surgery the next day. In the meantime, I sat in a wheelchair next to Paloma watching nurses rush in and out trying to keep her alive. I had emergency surgery the next day, and afterwards, we continued to sit by Paloma’s bedside.

For 10 days, I watched the nurses work and just made sure I was there if my friends needed me. But Paloma lost her battle.

I knew I had to be there for Frank and his family, even though I was fresh out of surgery and had developed cauda equina syndrome.

We were all devastated — the nurses included. The nurses who had cared for her made it a point to come to the funeral and share their condolences. This was when I realized what I wanted to do. I had been so lost, but through this tragedy, I found my new calling to become a nurse.

My new passion brought me from the Army, through school, then into the ICU. Prior to this, I didn’t even know what nurses did, but now I’m on the front lines of nursing and I will never give it up.


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About the Author:

Ian K. Chapman, BSN, RN
Ian K. Chapman, BSN, RN, is an ICU/PCU Charge Nurse/RN at Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs, Colo. He has been a nurse for three years.


  1. Avatar
    Rhonda Lombardo November 7, 2021 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Wow!! Ian you are such an inspiration!! Thank you for sharing your story. I hope Frank and his baby are able to continue despite the enormous loss.

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    Diana J. Voiles, RN, Director of Health and Wellness November 7, 2021 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Your career choice wasn’t a choice but a calling from the inner core of you. Your calling took a path for only you to be able to understand. I cannot thank you enough for joining the nursing team!! I hope you find as I have that Nursing is truly the MOST THANKFUL CAREER I HAVE EVER HAD. Keep yourself safe. Our career has its own atomic blasts that can cause internal fatalities too.

    Prayers and thank yous for ever.

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    Lori Stone, MSN, RNC November 7, 2021 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    What an inspiring story. I have devoted my entire adult life to nursing. Stories like this never cease to move me. Keep fighting the good fight.

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    Michael Negrete November 7, 2021 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Ian, thank you for your service and welcome to nursing…even though its been about three years now. Sorry about your good friend’s wife. My deepest condolences. In my family you’d be Uncle Ian. Having a back injury while on deployment (Landstuhl 04-05′) and as an Army Nurse, I can relate somewhat. Keep up the good work!
    Michael RN
    CPT (Ret.) USAR

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    Darien Diaz November 7, 2021 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    I am an Army nurse. I served at Walter Reed and I’ve deployed to Afghanistan. Some injuries you will carry for a lifetime: physically and mentally. To quote Forrest Gump, That’s all I have to say about that… Stay strong. Stay resilient. Airborne! All the way!!!

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    Portia November 7, 2021 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian,
    Thank for all your service. I see you made it through school and earned a BSN. Congratulations! I’m sorry for Paloma’s loss. What a friend you are. Nursing has gained an amazing person and I know your care for patients will be given with all your heart.
    May God continue to bless you. Portia, RN, BSN

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    Maureen Kerner November 7, 2021 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful addition to the nursing family. We need more persons such as Ian & I am excited to know nursing is attracting people who have benefited from nursing care. We need all of them!

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    Osmundo Hurtado November 15, 2021 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    Amazing story! You are an awesome friend to have. You are definitely inspirational and thank you for your service. I am also a Registered Nurse of 32 years (retired last year) and a US Army retired veteran of 22 years (Active and Reserves combined). I am proud to call fellow RN and Veterans like you,…. My brothers.

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    Ramona Munoz, BSN, RN, PHN, CLEC November 15, 2021 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Ian you have an amazing story. Sometimes we are led to our callings by way of detours. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope someday soon I will be able to share my story too.

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    Michelle Brown, LVN TEXAS December 15, 2021 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Hi Ian!! I’m a LVN from Texas and like you, was called to nursing due to losing a loved one. My daughter’s home health LVNs considered me a “natural” at the procedures I performed for her at the bedside. She had a ventilator a Mickey g button, a Picc line, and an ileostomy. Unfortunately, she passed away at 9 years old from the complications of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Although none of the patients I work for today are related to me, I try to deliver their care to them as if they are. I know when I go home I have given my all to make them comfortable and help to ease the anxieties for their family members. I’m proud to know you have also recognized your calling and also your families’ contributions to my freedom.

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    Mike Cloke, RN October 19, 2022 at 12:58 am - Reply

    Thank you for your service to the country

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