Janelle Prather knew from a very young age that she wanted to help people through nursing.
“My dolls, when I was growing up, they all had pin marks from getting shots,” Prather said of her childhood growing up on a farm in Iowa. “It was just something I was going to do. I’ve always cared for our animals on the farm, our neighbors (and) our family members. It was always part of my nature.”
That passion and zeal for helping people took Prather through nursing school after high school graduation. She made her way to Sioux City, Iowa, and Louisville, Colorado, working various jobs in hospitals - including nursing - before finally settling down in Columbus.
She started at Morys Haven before taking her current position at Tabitha Hospice, working as a nurse and case manager serving Columbus and its surrounding area.
Through it all, she hasn’t lost her humble, hard-working nature, crafted by years of being around older people, particularly her grandparents and great-grandparents. It’s something that her supervisors have noticed.
“She doesn’t like to be in the limelight,” said Jamie Kreutz, director of clinical services at Tabitha. “She really likes to work behind the scenes. A statement that someone had made about her is, ‘She’s a very quiet listener.’ Instead of always talking, she can sit back, listen and take in what the patient’s needs are (and) where they are at in the process.”
Her quiet strength and ability to work with people have been put to the test throughout her 34 years as a nurse and nurse’s aide. She takes pride in her work with the elderly in hospice care, while also getting families through one of the toughest parts of their lives.
“Hospice has always been an interest of mine and a passion as far as caring for those individuals at the end of life,” Prather said. “It’s just something that’s very close to my heart. There’s just not another experience in the world as far as caring for somebody during this time. This is something that people go through once, and this is something that everyone will go through, and I do find it very rewarding to be in people’s lives during this time to help them and guide them and give them the tools they need to take care of their loved ones.”
Her family, comprised of a loving husband and three children, is an integral part of her life. Two of her children were adopted through the foster care system while she and her husband were living in Colorado. In 2004, she received an award from Boulder County, Colorado, naming her Foster Parent of the Year.
Her oldest daughter, Desi, has an intellectual disability, something she and her husband were aware of before she was brought into the family. Prather struggled to teach her adopted daughter how to communicate and gain her trust, but she succeeded, and now she has a happy, healthy daughter loved by both her family and her community.
“Everybody knows Desi,” Prather said. “She’s a very outgoing individual. You couldn’t help but love her. She has been a joy and a blessing and the best child you could ever ask for.”
Desi’s experiences include being a part of Columbus’ “Night to Shine” prom held for special needs children on Feb. 8. Prather was also part of the event, serving as a volunteer buddy for another child.
“(I was) totally not expecting to be called upon to be a buddy,” Prather said. “In fact, I was a little nervous about that. But, it was probably one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever done. It was wonderful, my buddy was wonderful. We had so much fun. She danced the entire night. She had a blast.”
Her passion for giving and helping others has been passed down her family from generation to generation. She said her father gave her the inspiration for helping people and taking care of them in their later years, and now another member of the family will carry on that tradition.
Her son, Walker, will soon be graduating from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and preparing to enter Bryan College of Health Sciences in Lincoln to study nursing. Prather said she couldn't be more proud of him.
“It makes me proud of him because that’s his caring and nurturing side that he is showing,” Prather said. “I think of all the traits that you can have —honesty, caring (and) nurturing — those are the top traits that anybody could have, and that makes me very proud."
With her son following in her footsteps, Prather said she has a lot to be thankful for. She’s happy and fulfilled, living the life that she envisioned all of those years ago while playing with her dolls in Iowa.
“It’s a selfless profession and it’s something to be proud of,” Prather said. “I feel that we are here as part of our destiny to take care of other people and I feel like I’m fulfilling that. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. My goal as long as I can remember was to be a nurse, and that’s what I’ve done.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.