NIC nursing class gives an eternal gift: Students establish scholarship in honor of student's daughter

Students in North Idaho College’s renowned registered nursing program enroll for a variety of reasons. Some for better pay, others the chance at a lifelong career. Still there is one attribute that most nursing students share—the desire to help people.
“We’ve gone to school all these years to learn how to care for other people,” said Dan Franklin of Dalton Gardens, part of the second-year nursing class that recently established a scholarship fund in honor of the child of one of their fellow students. “So when we had the opportunity to care for one of our own students that was in need, someone in our immediate family that was going through the worst grief imaginable, we were ready to do anything it took. That’s what nursing is all about.”
Like most NIC nursing students, Greg Sapp’s life was full of demands. He was heading into the second semester of his second and final year as a nursing student. Like most nontraditional college students, he worked to balance the demands of being a college student while trying to make ends meet for his family, including his wife Leeanne, who is currently working toward a master’s degree in social work from Eastern Washington University, and their three daughters, 6-year-old Daphne, 3-year-old Ayiana and 1-year-old Madelyn all of Rathdrum.
|photo1|It was the day after Christmas when Madelyn’s restlessness woke her parents in the middle of the night. She had a fever so the Sapps gave her some medicine and planned to take her to the doctor in the morning. However, her condition rapidly worsened, prompting the couple to rush their youngest daughter to the nearest urgent care facility.
In one devastating night, the Sapps discovered it was an infection in the bloodstream that caused their 1-year-old daughter to slip into a coma as she was transferred from the urgent care to an emergency room to a pediatric intensive care unit in Spokane. Eventually, the little girl suffered a massive stroke and her parents had to make the heart-wrenching decision to discontinue life support. Maddie passed away Dec. 28, seven days after her first birthday.
The family’s grief has been a struggle, especially for Madelyn’s two older sisters that are just now starting to talk about what happened, Greg said. But the Sapps’ immediate family members were not the only ones grieving for the child and the family.
“We’re all so close and feel so connected,” said second-year nursing student Tana Vesser of Post Falls. “As tragic as it was for Greg and Leeanne, the entire class felt like we were going through it with them. It affected us all.”
And the Sapps felt the support almost immediately. Although Greg could’ve easily and with good reason decided to drop out prior to his final semester, the NIC nursing students and staff wouldn’t let him.
“Nursing education is a life changing experience,” said NIC Health Professions and Nursing Director Lita Burns. “The students experience transformation not only through the education they receive, but through the environment of nursing education. The challenges of nursing school can only be met when the students realize that just like in a family or community, they are dependent on one another for success—or what some would call survival. It is through this interdependence that they discover the art of caring, which is the heart of nursing.
“Our students learn this so quickly, by the end of their first semester they have bonded as family,” Burns continued. “It makes these next weeks heading toward graduation so bittersweet for most of them. This scholarship idea typifies the love and care our students extend to one another; we are so proud of them.”
“We had so much support from the class and the staff and faculty of the nursing department,” Greg said. “Everyone has been so compassionate. People in the nursing department even told me that they received phone calls from students telling them to not let me drop out. They even offered to do my assignments, whatever it took they said to make sure I stayed in the program.”
It worked. Despite his grief, Greg said he couldn’t imagine leaving his NIC nursing family. The family that made a gesture so profound that even now, it brings tears to the Greg and Leeanne’s eyes.
Each year, the graduating class of nurses gives a token of appreciation back to the NIC nursing department as a way of thanking the staff, faculty and college. This year instead of offering a plaque or photograph, the nursing class decided to reach out to their own in honor of one of their own.
The class established a memorial scholarship in honor of Madelyn to be given each year to a struggling second-year nursing student. The class has set a goal to raise $5,000, which is the minimum amount needed to endow the scholarship, allowing it to live in perpetuity with the interest earnings of the fund awarded each year as a scholarship.
“We’re happy to have the chance to help a fellow student through a difficult time, but we’re also helping future nursing students through this scholarship,” Vesser said.
Both the class and the Sapp family feel honored that the assistance will materialize through a fund bearing Madelyn Sapp’s name.
“I can’t express how much it means to me to have her name tied to something so positive that will live on forever,” Leeanne said. “It’s been a real ray of hope through it all and has been something that’s gotten me through when I feel like I don’t have the energy to be strong anymore.”
To contribute to the Madelyn Isabella Sapp Memorial Scholarship, send a tax-deductible donation to the North Idaho College Foundation, 1000 W. Garden Ave., Coeur d’Alene, ID, 83814 or call (208) 769-5978 for more information. 

For More Information
NIC second year nursing student Dan Franklin, (208) 772-9248 or NIC Development Coordinator Pam Noah at (208) 665-2750

Posted: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

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