Turnage Has Served Patients For Over 20 Years
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WATER VALLEY – When Vicki Turnage took a job with Dr. Paul Odom at his clinic in 2001, she never imagined she would become a fixture at Yalobusha Health Services (YHS). Or that she and her husband, Baine Turnage, would move into the Turnage family home, a Panola Street residence that has been in his family for three generations.
“I would have never thought I would still be here, our plans are not always God’s plans,” she explains.
Over two decades later, she readily agrees with her husband’s insight about the future.
“Baine says our next move will either be the nursing home or funeral home,” Turnage explains. “It is amazing realizing that you are where God means for you to be and your job is part of how you minister,” she adds.
Turnage is among seven nurse practitioners who work at YHS in clinics in Water Valley, Coffeeville and Oakland. The group was on the front-line during Covid, treating dozens of patients daily as Covid outbreaks started in March, 2020, with peaks following during variants that included Delta and Omicron. The last two years of her career have been trying times. She recalls the long days as a triage station was erected in front of Odom Rural Health Clinic and a line of vehicles with patients inside would stretch down to the road.
“There would be five or six people in the car, entire families with the virus,” Turnage said. She points to one day during the pandemic seeing 65 patients, and about half tested positive for Covid.
“The other half, it was probably just too early when we tested them,” she adds.
The days were exhausting and stressful. Patients were scared, and their work not only included providing treatment, but also providing reassurance. At the end of each day, Turnage would take her scrubs off at the back door of her house, put on her robe, and head straight to the shower.
After one particularly long shift, she stopped at the couch and dozed off before making it to the shower.
“I woke up later that night and still had my mask on. That is tired,” Turnage said.
There were tears shed when the workers at the clinic started administering vaccines in early 2021. Turnage recalled that first day, a line of seniors waiting for the vaccination.
“We had elderly patients who had not left their homes for months – had not been anywhere. People were scared for their lives,” she explained. “It was very rewarding. I cried that day and our patients cried. They thanked us so much.”
As a breast cancer survivor, Turnage is very passionate about women’s health. Her cancer was caught early, detected during an annual mammogram at the same clinic she works at each day. She was diagnosed with stage one cancer, starting an 11-month journey for treatment that included surgery and radiation.
“When I got diagnosed, two other employees at YHS were diagnosed within weeks and we all went to the same cancer center,” Turnage shared.
The influx of Water Valley patients was perplexing for the cancer doctor.
“But what happened was when I got diagnosed, everybody went and got their mammogram,” she continues.
Turnage strongly recommends annual mammograms, adding that the recommended age for the annual exam has been lowered to 35 years old.
“It used to be 40, but now most of the insurances will pay at 35,” she explained. “If you have a family history of breast cancer, sometimes even earlier,” she explained.
Cancer free since 2018, Turnage has readily shared details about her battle with her patients.
“It helps for patients to see us as normal people and not somebody who just tells you what to do,” Turnage said.
Turnage’s passion extends to all patients across the life span, men and women, and children. Her patient load includes many of Dr. Odom’s former patients.
“I have been with Dr. Odom long enough that his patients are comfortable seeing me. The trust he has in me means a lot,” Turnage adds. “Sometimes I will call him and say, ‘Hey, I have this interesting case. Tell me what you think.’ Dr. Odom has such a wealth of knowledge. That man has taught me so much.”
Batesville Native – Water Valley Resident
Turnage graduated from nursing school at Northwest Mississippi Community College when she was 19 years-old. She settled on nursing school after her mother, a single-parent and also a nurse, recommended the profession. She worked as a registered nurse for almost a decade before going back to Delta State University. She finished there in 1997 and worked in the emergency room at Baptist Memorial Hospital until coming to work for Dr. Odom. She married Baine in 1999, and they have one child, Parker Turnage, a freshman at Water Valley High School.
From 2001 until 2017, Turnage made the daily drive to the clinic from Batesville, her hometown. Although she misses seeing her mother and sisters as regularly as before, the move was a life-changer. She loves living on Panola Street, especially the close camaraderie of neighbors and friends.
“Parker has all of these friends, it costs a fortune to feed him and his friends,” she jokes.
Turnage credits early insight from her mentor and friend, Dr. Paul Odom, as a source of strength during her career.
“Dr. Odom always told me, before you come in this door every day, you take a minute and pray for your patients. You ask for healing for them, medical wisdom and prophecy. And I do that every day.”