Son’s Health Issues Inspire Parents to Earn Marymount Accelerated Nursing Degrees

Being a parent guides Adam Mann’s approach to nursing and inspired him to change careers after his son struggled to stay alive during the first months of his life. The Arlington resident spoke at Marymount University’s Malek School of Health Profession’s nursing pinning ceremony Sunday morning, then graduated that afternoon with his second bachelor’s degree, just 16 months after his wife, Lauren, completed the same accelerated nursing program.  

Diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction, Isaac Mann was delivered six weeks early and weighed just over four pounds. The young parents anticipated a short stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, but a few days after birth, Isaac began to have persistent bradycardia, a very slow heartbeat.
“During severe episodes, Isaac’s heart could go up to six seconds without a beat, his limbs would go limp, and he would turn a dusky gray,” Adam said.
It was the beginning of a five-month medical odyssey that included a three-month hospital stay, a discharge with a home heart monitor, readmission and heart surgery.
“My first experience of fatherhood was an unusual one, to say the least, but I learned some very important lessons,” Adam said. “Every father wants to protect his child, but I had to accept that I would not be able to.”
The couple needed other people — many of them nurses — to help keep their son Isaac alive. Adam also had a hard time grasping what he was being told about his son’s condition, and relied on family members. Both of Adam’s parents are nurses, and his father-in-law is a doctor of veterinary medicine.
“Although it was a time without a lot of answers, at least they knew the right questions to ask,” Adam said.
Now five years old, Isaac has two younger siblings, Lydia, three, and Caleb, eight months. Isaac is healthy, though nonverbal and developmentally at the level of an 18-month-old.
“He’s a really happy kid and in a lot of ways he’s really lucky,” Adam said prior to Sunday’s ceremony.
His wife, who had earned her first bachelor’s degree in photography at Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a photographer, began taking online courses at NOVA (Northern Virginia Community College) to better understand her son’s medical condition. She eventually transferred to MU’s accelerated nursing program. The rigorous program, for students with a previous bachelor’s degree and required prerequisites, is completed in just under 16 months. She’s now a nurse at Children’s National Medical Center’s heart and kidney unit, where Isaac was a patient.
“I like feeling that I make a difference,” Lauren said. “I have the most contact with the patients of anyone on the medical team and can advocate for them.”
She works with babies with congenital heart defects. Not only are their infants getting discharged from heart units, it’s often the first time the mothers are taking care of a baby.
“I get to teach them how to be confident and take the baby home,” she said. “It is so rewarding!”
Adam, an English and finance major at Notre Dame who had worked in accounting for a non-profit, began the accelerated nursing program a month after his wife graduated in December 2016. After an internship on the pediatric unit of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center this past semester, he will begin work in August at the Cardiac ICU at Children’s, another unit where Isaac had been a patient.
Adam and Lauren are 2008 graduates of Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington. They said they never could have gone through the challenging MU program — while raising three young children — without the help and support of their families, both of whom live nearby.
During his speech Sunday, Adam thanked MU President Matthew Shank, Provost William Ehmann and Dr. Michelle Walters-Edwards, interim associate dean of the Malek School of Health Professions. He also praised the faculty and administrative staff “for the countless hours they have put into preparing us for our future nursing careers.”
Sixty-two graduates received their Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing (31 through the accelerated track) and 15 graduate students received Master of Science degrees in nursing. Ashley Achiampong served as master of ceremonies for the nursing pinning. Kadie Aaron, representing traditional nursing students, spoke. Lisa Shine, Class of 2014, a nurse at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and a lab instructor at MU, was the alumni speaker.
“All of us are going to encounter patients and family members as confused and overwhelmed as I was,” Adam said in closing. “Most of them will not have the benefit of a family of nursing and medical experts. Some of them will have no one. Our life’s work, from this point forward, must be to champion the interests of these and all of our patients like they were our own children, mothers, fathers and grandparents.”

For more on Adam and Lauren Mann’s story, watch their segment featured on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.

Marymount University is an independent, coeducational Catholic university offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines.

Photo captions
Photo 1
Adam Mann spoke at Marymount University’s Malek School of Health Profession’s nursing pinning ceremony Sunday morning, then graduated that afternoon with his second bachelor’s degree, just 16 months after his wife, Lauren, completed the same accelerated nursing program.

Photo 2
Adam Mann with his son, Caleb, 8 months, Isaac, age 5, wife Lauren, and Lydia, 3, following his pinning ceremony speech.

Photo 3
The Mann family.