“Knowing me is knowing my dad. I’m like his shadow,” said Kamari Turnley. Have you ever heard the tune ‘Me and my Shadow?’ It’s a song by Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra. “We’re closer than pages that stick in a book. We’re closer than ripples that play in a brook...not a soul can bust this team into; we stick together like glue.”
Sticking together is something families do. They're there for one another when life happens. Kamari and her dad are not only there for each other, but are there for others too. Both share a passion for helping people.
Kamari has always looked up to her dad. She's very proud of his career accomplishments as a medical practitioner and 'over the moon' about his love for Jesus. Marcus Turnley is a member of the Kentucky Association of Physician Assistants and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. Currently, he’s a PA-C working in general surgery for Mercy-Health Lourdes in Paducah. He’s also part of the ministry team at Washington Street Baptist Church along with Pastor and City Commissioner Raynarldo Henderson, Arveta Turnley (Kamari’s mom), Armadrest Branigan, and Shonda Burrus.
Kamari said, “It's an understatement to say that I grew up in the church. Every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or any other day church could be squeezed in...I was there.”
Originally from Hopkinsville. the Turnleys moved to Paducah with their young family when Kamari was an infant. She attended Concord and transferred to Clark. Then, continued her public school education at Paducah Middle School and Paducah Tilghman High School. Her brother Keary Turnley attended city schools too.
During the early years, Kamari was a member of the 4-H Club and Girl Scouts. Both are nationally-based youth organizations that promote positivity and a sense of community. They also help supply kids with mentors and other developmental skills needed to create change in the lives of others, as well as their own. In addition to these organizations, Kamari participated in the Beta Club, the National Honor Society, and band.
After graduating, Kamari attended the University of Kentucky studying Health Society and Populations. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been interested in healthcare.” After all, two areas of interest shared by Kamari and her dad that ‘stuck like glue’ were church and medicine.
As Kamari continued making her own way, she developed two new relationships with a couple of local high school girls. It was during the college years that Cherika Johnson, a Pharm D 2021 candidate, and Azia Rouse, a credentialed social worker became like sisters to Kamari. In high school, they were aquaintances...in college, they became family. "We talk as much as I talk to my parents, maybe more," she said.
As part of a well-rounded college experience, Kamari was a member of a sorority. Delta Sigma Theta is historically an African-American Greek sorority founded by college-educated women dedicated to public service and programs that aid the African-American community. “My sorority was big into community services so I often helped. I'm always looking for ways to give back,” said Kamari.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Arts, Kamari attended Bellarmine University for nursing. Bellarmine is in Louisville, KY, and is known for specialized curriculum in healthcare, business, and fitness. Founded in 1950, it was one of the first institutions in Kentucky to accept all races.
Once the nursing degree was completed, Kamari started working at UK Chandler Hospital in Lexington. The hospital is a 569-bed facility and is part of the UK healthcare system. It’s a level one trauma center and handles the most severe trauma cases.
The fact that Kamari chose a career in nursing is no surprise. “Helping people has always been my passion,” she said. In 2019, Kamari moved to Houston, Texas to work in the Neuro ICU. Shortly thereafter, she started travel nursing. Then, the pandemic struck.
Helping others became exhausting. Kamari said she worked in the COVID ICU unit and was there for all end-of-life care. “It’s hard mentally,” said Kamari. She recalled one incident that happened during the pandemic when a patient referred to her as ‘an angel from God’.
“Working during the pandemic is hard, especially in the COVID ICU. One particular patient had a terrible round of COVID and swears that I was his angel sent from God. As he tells it, he was praying to the Lord to send an angel from heaven, then I walked into the room,” said Kamari. It’s stories like these that kept her grounded.
Kamari said there are two takeaways that really stood out from her COVID ICU experience. "One is to never take life for granted. Two is knowing that nothing is promised.”
To push forward each day, Kamari is a big believer in self-care. She’s a frequent flyer of Sunday Funday. "This is a Houston thing where people go to brunch and continue the day socializing and having fun," said Kamari. She enjoys manicures, pedicures, massages, and talking to friends. When describing her ideal day, she said, ‘Brunch with friends, a scheduled massage, and a good Netflix series.”
Traveling as a nurse isn’t Kamari’s only passion. She also enjoys traveling for fun. She’s been to Grand Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Cozumel, Vegas, and NYC. Her favorite trip was to Cozumel to climb the Mayan Ruins. El Cedral is a Mayan ruin that dates back to 800 A.D. and is the oldest ruin on the Mexican island.
Kamari plans to continue travel nursing. If you're wondering about this career, nurses must be RN's. Their role is to fill gaps, for a period of time, in the staffing needs at hospitals and facilities across the country. Reasons for additional staffing include a need for more experienced nurses, unexpected leaves of absence, seasonal fluctuations, or a worldwide pandemic such as COVID-19. There are long-term contracts and short-term, depending on the needs of the facilities.
The perks of being a traveling nurse include a stronger résumé, higher pay, travel experiences, and flexibility. It’s such an exciting career for those that want to take advantage of it. Kamari said, “Being a traveling nurse has been interesting. It's definitely opened my eyes.”
Whatever Kamari decides to do, she's got her family's support. The family relies heavily on faith and the power of prayer. Without it, worry would consume their thoughts. Being a COVID ICU nurse isn't for the faint of heart. It's a true calling. It's part of the 'family business' of helping others. Kamari is spreading her angel wings and flying. It's just what the doctor ordered.
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