Crow: A Defining Decade
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COFFEEVILLE – Family Nurse Practitioner Whitney Crow is entering a new decade, the 10-year mark for a seemingly lifetime of changes. The tenth anniversary is fast approaching after a Delta girl married a Water Valley guy following a college romance. Just over 10 years have passed since her brother was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis that ultimately claimed his life in 2021. And she is only a year shy of the 10-year mark working as a family nurse practitioner for Yalobusha Health Services at Arrington Medical Clinic. The changes and challenges during this time have helped define everything about Crow in her role as a primary healthcare provider, a wife, and the mother of three beautiful children.
Crow started at the clinic in Coffeeville in April, 2014, and the plan was to eventually transition to the Odom Rural Health Clinic in Water Valley. By then, Whitney and Shannon Crow had been married for 11 months, but were apart more than they were together as she stayed in Ruleville to work and help care for her brother, Ryan Roberson.
Admittedly it was a tough transition, leaving a busy practice and her family when she moved to Water Valley and started the job in Coffeeville.
“When I started, I didn’t know a soul and nobody knew me. I saw two people the whole month of April,” she recalled. “I hated it. My husband felt so bad, he was like ‘I brought you here and you don’t like it.’” Crow said.
The next month was a little better as she slowly started to gain trust with patients. The tight-knit community was also helpful.
“Word of mouth gets around fast. When one person gives you a chance they spread the word and somebody else will give you a chance. It gradually grew,” Crow continued.
In June, she shifted to the Odom Rural Clinic to cover for a family nurse practitioner who was on leave. But a month later she was back in Coffeeville and was the sole nurse practitioner in the clinic.
“People had a chance to see me as their provider and get to know me since I was the only one practicing in town at that time,” she recalls. The next month she was joined by FNP Jessica Richardson – and during the years that followed the patients and people in the community became deeply intertwined into her life.
“Jessica and I walk sometimes during lunch, and the people are constantly waving. They may even ask for medical advice,” she adds with a laugh. “But that is part of being in a small town. I like working here, there are a lot of great people and they are very respectful.”
Friendships aside, her commitment to healthcare is her passion and her brother’s life story is a big part of that motivation.
“I relate a lot of things to my brother because his story has made me who I am,” she explains.
Starting from the beginning, Ryan’s story was very difficult. He got sick in 2012 and was in a coma for six weeks. He was blind and paralyzed when he woke from the coma. But Ryan maintained a deep faith during the years ahead.
“He stayed that way for eight and a half years,” Crow continued. “Not being able to see or walk, but holding his faith as strong as he did and believing that God had a purpose for him. He told me, ‘This is my story, Whit, nobody can change it.’ He said ‘I can either choose to be mad and hate life and hate everybody and hate God. Or I can choose to be happy in the things I can still do like eat, use my brain and choose love and still know that God has a purpose for me,’” Crow recalls.
“His story was so challenging, nobody could ever truly figure out what autoimmune condition he had. Any time I have a patient with off-the-wall symptoms or symptoms that can be multiple things – I love to take care of them. It brings me great joy when we can figure out what is going on.”
Not surprisingly, sometimes a diagnosis may not be good news.
“I have been there in those final moments. Going through things like that, you can relate to people better,” she explains. “I don’t wish for anybody to ever go through that, but you can internalize how they feel when their heart is hurting.”
For family members who have lost loved ones, either unexpectedly or after a long illness, she also has a connection.
“I feel like I can sit there and listen because I have been there,” Crow explained.
The last decade has also brought additions to the family, three children, and more challenges.
Prior to their wedding, Shannon and Whitney always shared a common desire to adopt. When she struggled with infertility and thoughts of never being able to have children naturally, they felt their calling was to begin the adoption process. Shortly after submitting the initial paperwork, Whitney found out she was pregnant with Lottie.
This was a time of celebration and they kept the surprise from their family until they could all gather together.
“Everybody was screaming and hollering, it was an exciting time,” Crow said about the news that came during what their families thought was a surprise birthday party for Shannon.
Six months into the pregnancy with Lottie, they moved forward with their adoption plans. Their first home study came months later, when Lottie was six months old.
“We were very aware that we could have a six month-old (Lottie) and a newborn,” she said.
But the adoption process moved slow, and she started a new round of fertility treatment in hopes of another child.
“Nothing happened that time, everything failed. My body was not cooperating,” Crow said.
The next step was in vitro fertilization, but she was reluctant.
“I thought I would rather put that (money) toward an adoption,” she explains.
Their first opportunity came during a vacation in Destin, Fla., when the call came from their adoption agency. They had 15 minutes to make a decision to adopt a two-month-old boy. They would have to pick him up that night in New Orleans, and the stipulations also included the possibility of staying in New Orleans for two weeks before they could bring him home.
“We were like, this isn’t the right situation for us,” Crow said.
Several weeks passed and the second call came.
“I will never forget that random Tuesday afternoon at 1:11 pm. when my social worker called. She said, ‘We have you a baby girl, and you can get her today.’”
She immediately called Shannon.
“I told him, if we do not take this little girl, we are taking our name out of adoption. We have already turned down a little boy, now this little girl is presented,” Crow said.
After a brief conversation and consultation with their parents, they went to adoption agency the next day and welcomed Zola into their lives.
“That was that,” Crow continued.
Or was it?
In 2019, the couple had big news again – Crow was pregnant and this time they would bring a son, Ryan Bennett Crow, into the world.
“I can always look back and see God’s hand in everything. At that time, you can’t and I try to remind people who are going through journeys like this. I would have never had Zola,” Crow said about the delay in getting pregnant. Her pregnancy in 2019 was also nothing short of a miracle, the doctor had told her there was no way she was going to get pregnant because nothing had worked.
“Six weeks later, I was pregnant,” she said.
Adding to the blessing, Ryan’s due date was in August, the same month Crow’s father and her brother, the child’s namesake, share birthdays. Ryan Crow was born on August 21, 2020, two days before Ryan Roberson’s birthday and four days before his grandfather’s birthday.
“It wouldn’t have been as symbolic if he had been born when I thought he should,” Crow explains. “That little boy was able to bring joy into a dark situation. Those next seven months were the final months we had with my brother. Ryan brought joy into my brother’s life and a lot of other people,” Crow said. “God brought him at the right time.”
The obstacles have helped make persistence part of Crow’s inner being, especially with her patients.
“I don’t like not knowing, I don’t like the unknown and I don’t like when I have to tell somebody I don’t know. I am not one to sit back,” Crow notes. “If you don’t have a primary care provider that wants to fight for you and truly help you and listen to you – then you are not at the right spot.”
(Editor’s note: This is the 10th article in a series featuring physicians and family nurse practitioners employed by Yalobusha Health Services).