Children's | Featured | Nursing

To be a health care provider is to answer a calling. For some, the journey to health care is a straight line; for others, the road is winding. This series features stories from ECU Health team members who took the winding road, but found the destination to be worth the effort.

Lacey Boldyrev, staff nurse II in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), has worked for ECU Health since 2020. “I started in the middle of COVID,” she said. “My last semester of nursing school was entirely online and we weren’t even allowed to go into the hospital for clinicals, so it was a challenge.” Prior to attending Coastal Carolina Community College for her RN degree, Boldyrev was a stay-at-home mom while her daughters were young, and once they went to school, she pursued her dream of being a teacher.

“I started school but didn’t finish my degree,” Boldyrev said. “I was a substitute teacher and a paraprofessional in Brooklyn, where we lived, for seven years.”

At that time, she and her family moved to North Carolina where she worked in a preschool at Camp LeJeune until the birth of her son.

“He was born at Onslow Memorial Hospital,” Boldyrev said. “We had a normal pregnancy and ultrasounds, nothing special. But after he was born and I went to get him, they told me I couldn’t pick him up. They told me to return to my room and the doctor would see me.”

It was at that moment Boldyrev learned that her son had congenital heart disease and the hospital was sending him to Maynard Children’s Hospital at ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville. “I had never had a child with health issues before,” Boldyrev said. “All of the sudden we’re living in a hospital for a year and a half and taking medical flights to different states.” Her son died on Christmas Day, 2015.

“After he was gone, there was this big empty hole,” Boldyrev shared. “I didn’t know what to do with myself.” The time she spent with her son in the hospital, she said, inspired her to pursue a degree in nursing. “I had given him his medications and his oxygen and feeding tubes,” she said. “All these things I’d done for him, and I learned from the nurses taking care of him. I took that as a sign.”

Although she had never previously considered a career in health care, her work with children in education set a foundation for how to communicate with kids and their families in the hospital. “I understood from my work in the schools some of the challenges children face and how they develop,” Boldyrev said.

After graduation, Boldyrev knew she wanted to work at Maynard Children’s Hospital. “Everyone who was working there when my son was there treated me with such compassion and listened to me. The PICU was the only place I wanted to be; I’m not sure I’d be as happy if I was anywhere else.”

Part of what makes her work so special, Boldyrev said, is the PICU team. “The reason I came back to Greenville, and keep in mind I commute over an hour to get here, is my team,” she said. “The people I work with provide exceptional care. Not once since I started have I felt alone or that my team doesn’t have my back. There are other places I could work that are closer but that’s not what makes a good job. It’s the people and the pride you take from what you do.”

Boldyrev’s experience with her son has given her a unique perspective for the patients and families she serves in the PICU.

Lacey Boldyrev, a PICU nurse at Maynard Children's Hospital, stands on her unit.

“You don’t know anything about what it’s like if you’ve never had an unhealthy child. When my son was born, it opened a new world. I didn’t even know what congenital heart disease was, but now it’s unfathomable that I didn’t know,” she said. She recognizes that working in health care can be challenging, but it’s also the most rewarding thing she’s ever done. “If you’re passionate about medicine and helping people, but you’re hesitant to start the journey into health care, I say put your fears aside and take that first step.” Being able to provide compassion and support to children and families is something she’s very proud of, and she’s glad she took that first step. “I can be there for families going through the same type of situation I experienced,” Boldyrev said. “I feel like I’m able to make a difference in their lives. I believe there are reasons why we’re set on a path, and I take a lot of pride in saying that I’m a nurse.”

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Journey to Health Care