Nursing student Melissa Claborn does not begin her day seeking to inspire others. But if the saying, “God has a plan for everyone” is true, it is evident that Claborn has landed in the right profession.
Claborn, is set to graduate this spring, and earn a BS in nursing at East Central University. She began her education at East Central University in 2001 looking toward a degree in physical therapy. Claborn switched to photography and earned a degree at Oklahoma State.
“I was a part-time photographer and I wasn’t being fulfilled,” she said. “I wanted to find something to give back.”
That turned out to be nursing, where Claborn’s mother and sister had established careers. There was hesitancy however at the beginning as Claborn wondered if she would be able to achieve her designated tasks with one arm.

When tragedy strikes
Claborn lost her arm at the age of 10 years in a lawnmower accident. Claborn was in a wagon being pulled by a lawnmower her brother was driving. The lawnmower got stuck, and Claborn got out to pick up a pear. Not knowing she was out of the wagon, her brother put the lawnmower in reverse, accidentally running over Claborn’s arm. She credited him with having the presence of mind to put the lawnmower in neutral and pulling her out.
Rushed to the hospital, the fight began to save Claborn’s arm.
“I had five surgeries in eight days,” she said. “One day, my aunt was there and pulled back the sheet and there was blood everywhere. The infection ate a hole in my arm.”
In order to save Claborn’s life, the arm was taken. But the spirit remained.

Finding a career
When looking at the nursing profession, Claborn was naturally curious how she would be able to perform her duties on a daily basis. She watched a Youtube video of a one-armed nurse performing non-evasive procedures and felt she could accomplish the tasks required of her. She met with a number of directors and discussed her future in the profession. It was generally accepted that there are times when nurses need help and if Claborn got into a situation where she required assistance, she would simply ask for help. It could have been a difficult transition for a woman raised to be independent, but it has worked out in a good way.
“It felt great, I felt like a normal person,” she said.
“I’m not afraid to ask for help when I need it and I work for great people.”
That does not mean Claborn needs someone looking over her shoulder. She is able to work independently, drawing blood and performing the other tasks required of a nurse.
Once Claborn settled on becoming a nurse, she was looking toward becoming an OB nurse but changed to an emergency room nurse following a clinical at Arbuckle Memorial Hospital in Sulphur.
“I was hooked, that was what I wanted to do,” she said.

Making the most of her abilities
To develop skills, Claborn put in the work, spending time to perfect tasks that came much simpler to people with two arms.
“I would spend extra time on my nursing skills,” she said. “Instructors can show you how to do it with two arms, but I only have one. Male catheters are the most difficult to do. But I have learned to put on a sterile glove with one arm.”
Claborn’s efforts have not been lost on her co-workers, as she has proven herself time and again.
“Melissa came in during clinicals and was challenged every day,” Lea Brown, ER manager said.
Marie Lopez, an RN in the emergency room continually sought to challenge Claborn and in doing so, became a believer while instilling confidence. Brown recalled the day Claborn left and Lopez worked with one arm.
“She could not believe her (Claborn’s) skills,” Brown said.
And Lopez’ influence also paid off.
“She believed in me, to believe I could do it on my own,” Claborn said.
Claborn’s impact has been noticeable with staff and patients in the way she goes about her work.
“She is an inspiration, not only to our patients, but our staff,” Brown said. “There are so many people that think life is bad, sometimes they need a push. And she gives them that push.”
Claborne is on schedule to graduate in May. Should she follow that with passage of state testing, she will be a full-fledged nurse and hopes to begin her career in the emergency room of Mercy Hospital Ardmore.
“I’m just a normal person,” she said. “I have two kids.
“Every shift I work, I am asked about my arm. I hope the things I do might inspire someone else.”