Dance Marathon: Nurse for 23 years and still ‘loving it’


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Richard Young and Payden Lindquist have nothing in common.

Young wears glasses, and Payden has no trouble seeing the TV screen in front of him. One is easygoing, the other demanding. Young isn’t up to date with modern video games, but that doesn’t stop him from cheering his patient on.

But Young, a veteran nurse at the UI Hospital and Clinics, always finds a way to make Payden’s routine stay at the hospital as pleasurable as possible.

Payden — who has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer affecting white blood cells — plays his video games with Young watching, as they jokingly call each other crazy and poke fun at one another.

“I like to call him Crazy Steve No. 2. Maybe I like him, maybe not,” said Payden, an energetic 7-year-old, flashing a sly smile.

His mother, Missi Lindquist, said they appreciate Young and the rest of the hospital staff dearly, and she could not get through the visits without them.

“Nurse Young and the rest of the staff are like my family. I know more about him then he knows about me,” she said, as she began listing off the number of children he had, his schedule, and where he parks at the hospital.

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Young has been at the UIHC for 23 years, working with patients with bone-marrow deficiencies for the first 16 years. Now, he also works with patients who have hemoglobin deficiencies as well as general surgery, neurosurgery, and renal neurology patients.

“The [oncology] department is wearing many hats now,” he said and smiled.

He said his favorite thing about nursing is the interactions and relationships he creates with his patients, most of whom are children and many of them Dance Marathon kids similar to Lindquist.

“We do everything we can to make the patients and families happy,” he said. “We party for any occasion: the Olympics, birthdays, Halloween, summer, anything.”

Young recalled a time when he and the rest of the nurse staff dressed up in trash bags and had a water-gun fight with the patients.

But he has not always known his passion was in the medical field. Born in suburban Chicago, Young went to Cornell College, in Mount Vernon, Iowa, to get a bachelor’s degree in religious studies.

He later began working as a nursing assistant in the psychology department at the UIHC. He enjoyed it so much, he said, he decided to enroll in the UI College of Nursing. He started working in Iowa City right after graduation.

It hasn’t always been easy. Young said he recognizes it’s hard to deal with the possibility of death. But he said he was ready to face that when he started.

“No matter what the odds were, everyone was upbeat and positive,” he said. “It didn’t always work but it was never a false attempt, it was always sincere. There is no substitute for the bonds that are formed.”

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