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#whywecare: Veteran finds new way to serve

“It seems like everything in my life has led me to this point,” says Leigh Walls.

Growing up as the daughter of a pediatrician and a cardiologist, she chose to train as a medic when she enlisted in the U.S. Army. That training took her to a deployment in Iraq from 2007-11, where she tragically lost friends. The grief from those losses remained with her even after she returned home.

As Leigh adjusted to life after the Army, she chose to pursue nursing because healthcare had always been a part of her life.

“That’s when I fell in love with hospice,” she says. “I am able to be there for people in a time of need – to take time to listen and be with them.”

Leigh became a registered nurse in 2017 and worked in other hospice settings, as well as nursing homes, before joining JourneyCare this spring.

“Because of my previous work experience, I was aware of JourneyCare and its excellent reputation and I really wanted to be a part of it,” she says. “Now that I am on the JourneyCare team, I am learning just how much support this organization offers to patients and their families.”

Her first day with JourneyCare coincidentally fell during National Nurses Week. And that same week, the Chicago White Sox honored Leigh for her service as a “Hero of the Game” during the team’s annual Nurses Appreciation Game.

As Leigh cares for JourneyCare patients in the south suburbs, she says her military service is often valuable in creating connections.

“Many of our patients are seniors who are also veterans, and it is always special when you connect,” Leigh said. “There is a certain way we speak and interact and any difference in age or background doesn’t matter. We just get each other.”

JourneyCare’s We Honor Veterans program is an area where Leigh hopes to help in the future. The program recognizes current and former military members for their service and assists them in accessing their benefits. Program staff members are specially trained to work with veterans living with war-related post-traumatic stress syndrome, which frequently surfaces near the end of life.

“I love the work that I do,” Leigh says. “I have discovered a new way to serve.”