Gillette Children's patient becomes nursing assistant at the hospital where he 'grew up'

Our children's hopes and dreams are often shaped by what surrounds them, and that couldn't be truer for one employee at Gillette Children's Hospital in St. Paul.

A nursing assistant there is now using his experience and passion to help patients at the hospital where he spent a lot of time growing up.

Nick Lohmer became a Gillette patient when he was just a few months old. Though he's now in his 30s, Lohmer is still a patient there. He is also so much more. Lohmer is a shining example of how ambitions become reality.

When a child checks in for surgery at Gillette, Lohmer is one of the first faces they'll see. He is a nursing assistant and a guide during some of the scariest times for sick kids.

Lohmer has been a Gillette employee for 17 years, but his journey through the halls of the hospital goes back to the first few months of his life.

He was born with a spine condition and knows exactly what the kids there are seeing and feeling.

“I grew up here at Gillette, I have spina bifida myself. I've had 88 surgeries as of a year ago, and not all, but a good number of them have been here at Gillette,” Lohmer said

Spending a lot of his youth at the hospital wasn't always easy, but it did give Lohmer a clear idea of how he planned to spend the rest of his life.

“I kind of always knew from a very young age, early teenage years I would say, that I knew that I wanted to be in the medical field. I wanted to be involved with helping mainly kids but people just in general, that have had similar situations to what I've been through and obviously I can relate to them in a way that other people can't,” Lohmer said.  

Now, everywhere Lohmer goes at the hospital, patients and their families stop to chat.

He is able to walk, but Lohmer’s condition has made it tougher over time. It is easier for him to get around the hospital in his wheelchair.

For patients, it provides an instant connection.

“He's kind of a barrier-breaker for our kids. Our kids come into this nervous area and Nick comes out full of charm, full of 'I've been a patient here' experience,” said Joel Dickey, Lohmer’s coworker and a nurse in the Perianesthesia department at Gillette.

At 37 years old, Lohmer lives a very full life.

“I'm a married man of ten years, I own my own home, I'm fully independent,” Lohmer said.

He hopes sharing those milestones shows patients and their parents that their conditions don’t define them.

“What I have, or what has been my experience, can be their experience for their children as well,” Lohmer said.

Though Gillette is a children's hospital, patients who started there as kids are still able to come back for medical care as they get older. It gives Lohmer a unique dual perspective that has made him a favorite at the hospital.