How I Became A Nurse

In 1976 I make a decision to leave my husband and move back to Kentucky. I was living in Columbus, Indiana at the time. I had 3 little boys, the oldest was 7 and the twins were 3. I had nothing but my kids at the time. Mom and dad's house was to small for us and they were living on a small fixed income so financially they could not help me. Non of my brothers and sisters could help either. With no other options, I signed up on wellfare and food stamps and moved into an old 3 room shack. No indoor plumbing and an old fireplace for heat. Cracks around the windows and doors that you could see sunshine through. There was no child support enforcement back at that time so I got non. I could write a book on how to survive with nothing!

I lived on $235 dollars a month and less than $200 in food stamps for 4 of us. I moved from one old shack to the other trying to find better living conditions. After two years I had enough of just barely existing and decided to go to vocational school in Hazard to better myself.

I lived in another 3 room shack on Coon Creek in Leslie county at the time. No indoor plumbing there either. I “saved” enough money out of my wellfare over about 6 month's time to buy an water pump for the well, a shower stall and kitchen sink, and an old beat up used car. I got water going so it would be easier to bath, etc.

My plan was to go to heavy equipment school. This was in 1978, women's lib was going big at the time and the school couldn't discriminate because I was a woman but back here the good old boy network was still in place. After I applied for heavy equipment operator the vocational school principle called me and ask me to meet with Phyllis Morris. I ask who she was. He said she was the director of the LPN program. I told him I didn't want to be a nurse. He talked me into talking to her anyway.

In our meeting she ask me why I wanted to do heavy equipment. I told her I wanted to make good money for my kids. I had taken several test at the school. She talked to me about nursing and said it paid good, was year around work, and would be inside out of the rain and cold. Then he said that lots of times heavy equipment operators are not able to work in bad weather so no income. Yada, yada, yada. I told her I just had never been interested in being a nurse. Finally she ask me if I knew how inteligent I was. I said no. Then she told me she was not supposed to tell me but that I had scored at a near genius level on my IQ test and what the number was. I was stunned. I had no idea I was that smart! Long story short, she talked me right into nursing school.

At that time the welfare program had a program called WIN ( women in need). It paid for my books, tuition, child care, and a small stipend for gas and food to get to go to school in addition to my regular wellfare and food stamps. I found a sitter for my kids, Corsey Mullins, on wooton where I could drop the kids of as I went to school.

I started school in August 1978. I had been going just 3 weeks when on a Friday evening as I came home down the spur to Hyden, the motor blowed up in my old car. I had no transportation now and no money or time for a repair or another car. I had to be in school Monday morning and there was no missing allowed. What to do? I had the weekend to come up with something or drop out. Peggy Lovett (Covey) was also in the same LPN program. I called her and she said if I could get a way to meet her somewhere on highway 80 I could ride with her. I lived about 6 miles form 80 and still no way to get that far. A man I knew who lived on Hurricane Creek where my mom and dad and Peggy lived had an old house empty. He agreed to rent it to me. I called my cousin Ep Vanover who had a truck and teenage boys and he came on Sunday and moved me into the old house. I had to leave my water pump and shower behind. Again, it had no water and no indoor plumbing. The old outdoor toilet had been torn down as well. Lonnie Handrix was a good friend and lived across the road, he let me carry my water from there. I carried big garbage bags of dirty clothes on my back a half mile down to moms to wash and carried the clean ones back up on my back. I bathed in a washpan. We had to use a pot for a toilet and throw the waste out the back window into the creek!

I preservered and finished LPN school in 1979. Started work at Hyden hospital 1/14/80 at $4.35 and hour. I thought I was rich! I have never been on welfare since. Nursing has been a great career for me and my family. Like I said, I could write a book!


Glenna Combs