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A Remarkable Life – A Testament to the Impact of Dedication, Passion, and a Desire to Help People

by Jun 26, 2024Community, Culture0 comments

When we choose to dedicate our lives to something, we endow that thing with tremendous power. It will shape the course of our life, have a profound and lasting impact on the people we encounter, and determine how others will remember us.

Judith Hutchins Bruner, a registered nurse (RN) at Deaconess HomeCare in Gulfport, Mississippi, has lived a remarkable life. Both because of the events that helped shape her and the singular passion to which she chose to dedicate herself for more than six decades – helping people.

Judy was born in September 1936 in the shadow of the nearly completed Golden Gate Bridge. Her father was a communications engineer. Her mother was a nurse. The family lived in California briefly before a job transfer sent them to the East Coast. It was this move that led Judy to decide on the future of her career, setting her on the path that would begin an impressive journey.

“My mummy was a nurse, so I always wanted to be a nurse,” Judy said. “The counselor in high school told me I was not maturing and did not need to be a nurse.”

Determined to make her dream happen, Judy completed her studies. After two years of college – and a compromise with her father – she entered nursing school at Drew University in New Jersey. She eventually transferred to Cornell University in New York to finish her degree.

After graduating from nursing school, Judy worked at a local hospital for a year before deciding to join the U.S. Air Force in February 1960.

“I chose the Air Force over all others because I liked the uniforms better – funny but true,” she said.

From there, Judy went into a special program to become an aerospace nurse. She served during the early part of the Vietnam War as a flight nurse, picking up and treating wounded service men.

Through her military service, she learned and honed the lasting skills every nurse needs.

“I learned how to be a true nurse,” she said. “Being a flight nurse and an astronaut nurse were both amazing. I was also a charge nurse at an intensive care unit in Lackland, Texas.”

Judy’s service provided her with amazing opportunities:

  • While working as an astronaut nurse, she met legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin while sitting next to him in the pressure chamber as crews were training for the Gemini 12 mission.
  • She was the first woman to reach 80,000 feet in a pressure suit.
  • She saw the Taj Mahal in the moonlight.
  • She climbed Mt. Fuji while stationed in Japan.
  • And while stationed in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Judy met her husband, Walter E. Bruner. They were married for 31 years, from 1968 to 1999.

During her time as an Air Force nurse, she worked at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was there that she discovered home health nursing. And after retiring from Keesler in 1978, she began working in the field that would become her passion.

In February 1979, Judy started at South MS Home Care. She has been with the agency for 45 years, including through its transition to Deconess HomeCare and LHC Group. Judy credits this change with really helping her discover her passion.

“My team and my boss are amazing,” she said. “I love caring for my patients, their families, and sometimes their dogs.”

As a home health nurse, Judy has guided her patients’ healthcare journeys for large portions of their lives.

“I have had one of my home health patients since he was six months old,” she said. “He is now 27 years old. Another patient – a VA patient – I have had for 10 years.”

And after the death of her husband, Judy says her dedication to her work and patients helped her find strength and purpose.

In 2005 – one day after Hurricane Katrina – Judy was out getting to her patients, making sure they were okay and delivering water. She had to drive through ditches and remove trees from the roads to reach them.

Now, at 87 years old, Judy continues helping her patients and sharing the wealth of knowledge she has obtained from adventures throughout a remarkable life. Her story is a testament to the tremendous lifelong impact of dedication, passion, and a desire to help people.

“My life has been a blessing, and my job is so rewarding,” she said.

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