A catastrophic car accident, a lucky break at a nursing school, and a nomination from a co-worker led to a Dawson County nurse being selected for a Nursing Award of Excellence.
Laura Maciolek, a volunteer nurse at the Good Shepherd Clinic in Dawsonville and a full-time nurse at Childrens Healthcare in Atlanta, was recognized May 6 with a Nursing Award of Excellence given by an Atlanta newspaper.
From a pool of nearly 400 nursing nominees from hospitals across metro Atlanta, Maciolek landed in the top 10 for her work at Dawsons only free medical facility.
We know what its like to be down and out, Maciolek said. We needed to use the services of a free medical clinic, and thank goodness they were there for us. I just want to give back.
In 2003, Maciolek, her husband Mike, and their three boys were involved in a serious collision on Highway 53 in Forsyth County.
We were hit head-on by a 16-year-old kid, and the truck he was driving caught on fire and exploded, Mike recalled. I knew we were also going to catch on fire, and I was passing my 8-year-old out the window to somebody, and there was somebody else helping my other boys, and I was trying to get my wife out, who was unconscious and trapped inside the car, when things caught on fire.
At the time, the couples boys were ages 6, 8 and 10. Eight-year-old Danny suffered a traumatic brain injury, nearly dying at the scene, according to Mike.
Prior to the accident, Laura had applied at multiple nursing schools, but was turned down until a slot opened at the University of North Georgia shortly after her accident.
I thought to myself, I cant do this. Ive got three kids in rehab, and Im trying to heal too, she said. I just cant do it.
But, she thought about the care her children received at Childrens Healthcare.
They literally saved my sons life, Laura said. And my husband kept saying, You can do it. You can do it.
Mike, a computer consultant, had lost his job before the accident. Laura was working part-time, and the couple had no health insurance.
We needed to use a free clinic for some of our care, Laura said. We were just broke.
Broke, perhaps, but certainly not poor.
At the clinic, she deals with people who are in similar situations to what we were in, Mike said. We know what thats like. She just wants to give back the way people gave to us and helped us out in our worst time.
After passing her exams and graduating from UNG, Laura had two job offers and accepted the one at Childrens.
Her work at Good Shepherd Clinic began after reading a story in a local newspaper.
I remember reading a story in the Dawson News & Advertiser about the clinic and they needed volunteer nurses, she said. So I walked in on a Tuesday afternoon and starting working.
Maciolek was nominated for the nursing award by Jane Stuckey, chair of the clinics board.
Shes a mother of three boys, works full time and Childrens at night, and yet tirelessly gives one day per week to the Good Shepherd Clinic, Stuckey said. She is an amazing person.
Good Shepherd Medical Director Dr. Larry Anderson agrees.
I think when you experience something like what Laura did, it makes you aware of how small, kind gestures have a very large impact on people physically and emotionally, Anderson said. When you express compassion, rather than just feeling it, that makes a world of difference in peoples lives.
The couple, originally from New England, moved to Dawson County in 1994.