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Jackie Spencer

Jackie Jerry: Empathy for others

Jackie Jerry lost five pounds in one day, and she will never forget how. “On Friday, I went to the doctor, and by Monday, I was in surgery,” she says of the day in 1980. “They removed a five-pound tumor. As a 13-year-old, my biggest concern, though, was losing my hair. It eventually didn’t matter because I realized I was in a fight for my life.”

One of Jerry’s nurses was the late Bettye Arnold, RN. At the time, patients did not have central lines for when they needed blood drawn and to receive chemotherapy. “I didn’t want anyone else to stick me but her,” Jerry says. “She was so caring and my favorite nurse.”

One of five kids, Jerry lived in Arkansas with her family—a group with a very strong faith and bond. “I remember being at home with my sisters waiting on me hand and foot because I was very sick after chemotherapy,” she recalls. “I talked to God a lot, and my faith got me through it.”

Caring nurses and a strong faith led Jerry to decide she wanted to work at the hospital. “When I was a patient, I always told people I wanted to work at St. Jude. I wanted to give back what St. Jude had given me and help kids,” she says.

Jerry started as a nursing assistant in 1990. Now she works in Nursing Surgical Services and Sedation. “I see things from both sides and have a lot of empathy for the patients and parents because I sat where they’re sitting,” she explains. 

 “I love teens, and I often share my story with them,” she continues. “It gives them a sense of hope, because it is hard to go through this as a teenager. I went through a stage when I didn’t want to come back for checkups, but no one knew me better than St. Jude.”

The mother of three children, Jerry says she owes everything to God, and St. Jude. While a patient, Jerry sometimes saw Danny Thomas walking through the hospital. Today, as she takes care of St. Jude patients, she is fully aware of the debt that they—and she—owe the entertainer.

“If he hadn’t listened to his call, think about how many kids wouldn’t be here,” she says. “I am forever grateful.”