Black Appreciates Serving Patients in Second Career
TUPELO, Miss.—Registered nurse Heather Black of the NMMC Women’s Hospital is repeatedly recognized on patient satisfaction surveys, and she believes she knows why. “I never feel like I HAVE to take care of patients. I GET to take care of patients,” Black says. “I’m so appreciative to get to do what I do, and I feel like my patients can feel my care for them is genuine.”
An Oxford native, Black went to cosmetology school after high school. She began working in the salon in 1991 and became a salon owner in 1993. In 2007, she bought K.C.’s School of Hair Design in Pontotoc and was director/instructor.
Around 2011, she began to experience health problems. “For three years I fought this awful feeling that something was wrong with my health,” she says. One day, a nurse practitioner noticed her slowly getting up from her seat and inquired. “I told her my neck was hurting,” says Black, who had an X-ray then an MRI.
She was referred to NMMC neurosurgeon Dr. Louis Rosa, who diagnosed Black with spinal stenosis. “The vertebrae in my neck were severing my spinal cord,” she explains. “On April 28, 2014, Dr. Rosa did very risky surgery to remove the cervical vertebrae from the base of my skull down to the top of my shoulders. Now I have nothing protecting my spinal cord.”
Dr. Rosa warned Black that she might never work again because her arms and hands would be so weak. “When I woke up from surgery, of course I was in pain from the surgery, but I could tell immediately that I was better,” she says.
Black’s surgery inspired her to revisit her childhood dream of becoming a nurse. Two weeks later Black was back at work wearing a neck brace. “I’m a control freak. When I got to work that day after being gone for two weeks, I saw that my employees had everything under control. Everything was running perfectly, just as if I had been there,” she said. “It’s like God said, ‘you wouldn’t give up control, so I had to take control away from you so I could show you.’ That day I applied for school.”
Almost a year to the day after her surgery, She and her husband, Anthony, answered a call to adopt a baby. The Blacks had an older daughter, Mandalyn Rose, and had fostered many children through the years. “I was never supposed to pick up anything that weighed more than 5 pounds, and Bella Rose weighed 6 pounds. I believe it was God’s timing—he used Bella Rose to rehab me,” Black says. “As she grew, I got stronger. She primed me for nursing school. God knew when I needed the baby to help me rehab.”
Black earned her associate degree in nursing from Itawamba Community College in May 2018 and joined the NMMC staff that June. This August she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mississippi University for Women. Black still owns K.C.’s School of Hair Design and works there on her days off from NMMC. “I appreciate my staff for allowing me to come live a dream,” Black says. “The beauty industry will always be part of my life, but this is a new chapter added to the story.”