For 14 weeks, Carol Gallup took care of Sam and the IV that was almost always buried in his arm.Sam was her foster son. The boy had been homeless and living with two siblings in the mountains of Tooele Valley outside of Salt Lake City before Carol and her family took them in. Sam had eczema, and an infection had burrowed its way through his cracked skin and buried itself in his pelvis.
It wasn’t the flu, as doctors had previously told the family. Sam was very sick and might die. He spent a week at a children’s hospital in the city, and Carol and her husband sat with him in shifts. As the doctors fought to keep Sam’s white cell count down, one physician told Carol that Sam would need round-the-clock antibiotics, via an IV, for 14 weeks after he left the hospital.
“It just didn’t dawn on me ‘til the day that we were going to be discharged that I was the one that was going to be giving the antibiotics by IV,” she said.
She begged for one more day at the hospital, for a crash-course on how to administer IVs and care for them, how to flush the remaining medicine out of the tubes and into the little boy’s veins.
She learned, and she cared for Sam. And then came the realization:
“I thought, ‘Hmm, maybe I could be a nurse,’” Carol said.
It was a moment of deep internal understanding that led Carol to become a nurse, to her and daughter Lori Gosman dancing in a Bar Nunn street with Lori’s acceptance letter in their hands, to younger sister Lydia Neal following them both to Wyoming Medical Center, to working all together on the same floor, to laughing about lunch-break Snapchats and to catching the warning signs of a stroke in a patient.
Carol waited for her children — all eight of them — to go to school, and then she became a certified nursing assistant and began working her way through nursing school in Utah.
But “life happened,” she said. Her husband was hired for a job in Casper, and none of Carol’s credits from Utah would transfer to Casper College.
She waited. Lori didn’t. The summer the family moved here, it must’ve been 2009, Lori applied to the college’s nursing program. She’d learned, as her mom had learned, how to care for Sam and his IV. Lori is a mother now but couldn’t have been older than 16 when she sat at that kitchen table with the IV. She didn’t have the same nursing-as-calling realization that her mother did, but she knew she wanted to help people.
Maybe beauty school? Those people are like therapists, she said earnestly. Maybe a veterinarian? No, the hours were too long — she wanted a family, an awesome family, like the one she grew up with. Her parents had taught her and her siblings to put all others before themselves, and her mom was a nurse.
Carol pushed her to go for it. She helped Lori fill out the application.
“I remember writing ‘nursing’ on the paperwork,” Lori said.
She applied to start at Casper College as early as possible, in the 2010 spring semester.
Lori — who has bouncy brown hair and says “oh my heck,” instead of the many alternatives — started to describe the day she received a letter from the college.
“Oh, I remember this,” her younger sister said, laughing, as the trio sat together at Wyoming Medical Center last week.
“We drove down to the mailbox ‘cause we lived in Bar Nunn at the time, and mom opened the mailbox, and she’s like, ‘It’s here, it’s here!’” Lori said. “And I held it in my hand and I said, ‘I can’t open it, mom.’ I was just so nervous, my heart was pounding.”
Carol grabbed the letter and took off down the street, continuing to yell “it’s here! It’s here!”
“I said, ‘Get back here, do not open it!” Lori laughed.
Carol opened it, and the two of them danced in the street.
Teenager Lydia, who was waiting in the car, rolled her eyes.
“I’m like, ‘Oh Gosh, I’m not related to these people,’” she recalled. She was laughing, too, an identical laugh to Lori’s, an identical laugh to Carol’s.
Mother followed older daughter to Casper College and graduated in 2014, two years after Lori. Again Carol worked as a nursing assistant as she made her way through school. (“And keep in mind that she had eight kids to take care of,” Lydia added.)
Lori was at Wyoming Medical already, working on the fourth and fifth medical floors. Carol had worked in the surgical unit and had a job waiting for her when she graduated.
Now they were nurses together. Sometimes, Lori was Carol’s charge nurse. In other words: Daughter was in charge.
“It was a nice role reversal,” Lori said, laughing again. Giggles come easy with these three.
“I thought, ‘I better teach her to respect your elders, you don’t tell your elders what to do,’” Carol said, her smile stretching up to her eyes. “But in that case, it would’ve been insubordination.”
In 2015, Lydia became a certified nursing assistant out of high school and, with Lori’s urging, followed her mom and sister to WMC. Now they are three.
It’s fun, they said, and their bonds grow stronger, leaning on each other for advice. Mom loves to play with Snapchat on her lunch break and will ask everyone if they’ve seen Snapchat today.
Now that Lori’s a mother, she sees less of her own mom outside of the hospital. When they get to work together, it’s special.
“I think we read each other,” Carol said.
But it’s deeper than fun, deeper than the Snapchats and the realization made years ago at a kitchen table in Utah.
“Nursing makes us feel beautiful, you know, inside and out,” Carol said. “It just makes us feel like – it gives us a beautiful feeling inside to know we’re helping someone.”
“It’s who we are,” she continued.
“Growing up, too — mom and dad always taught us to put other people before yourself,” Lydia said.
“Especially in a big family. Ten people,” her older sister agreed.
“So when you say it’s deeper — it is deeper. It’s everything we were told to aspire to be,” Lydia said. “So it’s the perfect way to learn how to put other people before yourself.”
The sisters and mother walked together into the elevator, upstairs, to have their picture taken. They smiled and chatted. Lydia is pregnant, and her baby’s due next month. When life calms down for her and her family, she plans to follow Lori and Carol into nursing school at Casper College.
They posed together, Carol sitting in a chair and her daughters, her coworkers, on either side.
After the photos were finished and the camera hung near the photographer’s hip again, the three huddled and wrapped each other in a hug, hair and smiles and laughs blending together.