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Caring for Miracles:

Meet Future Neonatal Nurse Lolita Singh ‘23

Nothing could deter Lolita Singh from reaching her goal of becoming a registered nurse, not even the two-hour commute to and from Kingsborough Community College from her home in East New York, Brooklyn.

As a child, she grew up hearing the adage, “No one can take your education away.” “The main focus in my household was always about school,” she said. “As I got older, I realized how true that was. No matter what you have, your education is one of the most important things that no one can strip you of.” She excelled throughout her years as a young student. By middle school, she was named valedictorian and already thinking about her career choices. At first, she’d wanted to become a pediatrician. Inspired by the nurses who cared for her niece in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) shortly after she was born, Lolita shifted her focus to becoming a neonatal nurse, which eventually led her to Kingsborough.

“I’d heard high praises about Kingsborough from previous nursing graduates,” she noted. “I was told the classes were smaller and more intimate than colleges where there are more than 50 students per class. That meant I would be able to learn and communicate with my professors better. I also heard that hospitals love to hire Kingsborough nursing graduates because they put in the work and care about their careers. I wanted to be a part of that environment, so at that point, I didn’t mind the commute.”

Though Lolita started college after graduating high school in 2014, she found the transition difficult. “I felt lost and decided to take a semester break,” she shared. That one semester quickly turned into three years. She returned to KCC in the fall of 2018, passing her prerequisites with flying colors, and was accepted into the nursing program in March 2020. “As we all know, that is when COVID arrived in all of our lives. So now I had to make another transition and start the nursing program online from home. It was difficult at first, but I got the hang of it.”

The challenges kept coming: Her grandfather passed away during her second semester in the program. “It took a huge toll on me because he was one of the most important people in my life. As I am Hindu, we have 13 days of wake after the funeral, which was at my house because he lived with me. I struggled with my studies, but with the strength I’ve built over the years of dealing with many family deaths and knowing that he was watching over me, I kept going and still passed my classes.”

At the end of July 2021, after completing her third semester in the nursing program, everything went downhill. “It all started with really bad headaches, muscle aches, and confusion,” she recalled. “Within three days, I couldn’t spell my name, didn’t know my birthday or my ABCs. I couldn’t speak at all. I didn’t understand anything that was going on.”

Admitted to Long Island Jewish Hospital, it took the doctors 16 days to diagnose her with anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune encephalitis, a rare brain disease first identified in 2007, where the body creates antibodies against the NMDA receptors in the brain.

“This was definitely the scariest time of my life. During my time in the hospital and out, I had these symptoms: impaired memory and understanding; unusual and involuntary movements; involuntary movements of the face (facial dyskinesia); difficulty with balance, speech or vision; insomnia; weakness or numbness; severe anxiety or panic attacks; compulsive behaviors; behavior changes such as agitation, fear or euphoria; loss of inhibition; hallucinations; and paranoid thoughts.” Seizures are also a part of this disease, so she was placed on anti-seizure medications to help prevent them.

The really hard work began after she was discharged. “I was still having hallucinations and paranoid thoughts and I had to relearn how to do everything again, basically from scratch. I had to relearn how to read, write, speak, walk, shower, smile, laugh, love, understand what others were saying – basically regain my personality.” She also had to regain strength on the right side of her body. Incredibly, she only sat out one semester and returned to KCC in the spring, but not without some bumps.

As part of her recovery, she received intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) infusions every month of the spring semester to prevent a relapse. IVIG is a pooled antibody and a biological agent used to manage various immunodeficiency states, with the goal of normalizing the compromised immune system. At the same time, she persisted in learning the required materials. “School was a struggle for me. I needed extra time for my exams because of the high level of anxiety I developed after my brain disease. I also had to get accustomed to the fact that it took me longer to process information.”

By the end of the semester, her weakened immune system left her vulnerable and she wound up getting COVID. Despite being extremely ill, she pushed through the semester, only to wind up sick with the flu. “I actually took my maternity final with a fever of 102.5 degrees.” Unfortunately, she had to repeat that course in the fall.

“During the summer, my memory and comprehensive thinking improved. I felt more like the determined, hard-working young woman I was before my brain disease. I figured out more efficient ways to study without just memorizing, but actually learning and applying it in my clinical settings.”

She enjoyed the hands-on experience she received during her hospital clinicals. “Giving injections and medications, taking care of patients and accommodating their needs, watching the nurses work and learning from them was truly an experience I’ll never forget. Getting a feel of what my career would be like was like a dream coming to life.”

Her final clinical experience, working with mothers and newborns, helped confirm her decision to become a neonatal nurse. “It was the best clinical I've had thus far. It confirmed my desire to help and provide for  newborn babies entering the world. They are blessings and they should have the appropriate care and love. I’ve witnessed and assisted in both a vaginal birth and a C-section birth. I’ve also been in the nursery and the NICU to see the babies and how the nurses care for them. I studied and enjoyed every moment of learning about babies, what’s normal, abnormal and the treatments. It is my true passion to pursue becoming a neonatal nurse.”

Lolita passed all her exams and graduated in January 2023. In spite of her “adventures” along the way, she said her most memorable moment at Kingsborough was the pinning ceremony. “The pinning ceremony made it real: I’d made it through college, the nursing program, and through all my struggles. It was the day I knew all my hard work and dedication paid off.”

“If it wasn’t for Kingsborough, I don’t think I would have become a nurse,” she added. “Kingsborough has a way of connecting with their students and helping in every way possible, from the number of resources available to the professors’ help. Even after the pinning ceremony, they helped prep us for the NCLEX (the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses).” She took her exam on March 22, 2023 and two days later was notified that she’d passed on her first attempt, officially making Lolita a registered nurse. (Remarkably, 100 percent of her classmates successfully passed the exam.)

After a short break, Lolita plans to start working towards her bachelor’s degree next spring. Once she has completed her degree, she’ll begin working in a neonatal unit, possibly at the hospital where she was admitted when she was sick.

Lolita is especially thankful for the support of two of her instructors: Janette O’Sullivan and Sarah Bradwisch. “They were my professors while I was still in my long recovery of my brain disease. I’d shared the struggles I was facing at each stage of my illness. They gave me pep talks and made sure I received extra time to complete my exams. They also made sure my anxiety level was at a minimal, reminding me to breathe and take my time, and then met with me after exams for a follow-up. They both made me want to keep pushing, even when I broke down and wanted to give up. I will never forget them and all they have done for me.”


Nurse Lolita Singh ‘23