Passing the light

Deb Clyburn

10 years of CenteringPregnancy

80 Centering groups

794 Centering patients

Last week we lost the heart and soul of our Centering practice here in Greenville, Deb Clyburn.

Deb has been a Nurse Practitioner with us for 20 years, and was on the team when we started Centering in 2008. She immediately took to the model. She had done years of childbirth education and teen pregnancy outreach all over the upstate of South Carolina, but she thought Centering was the best model she’d ever used. No matter what barriers came up, she found ways to keep going and support the entire team to carry on.

Her patients absolutely adore her. She had a calm, sweet demeanor that makes everyone feel comfortable and loved. And she was very smart – we all benefited from her many years of experience, two masters’ degrees, and a curious mind that never stopped learning.

Her coworker family is not yet sure how we’ll go on without her. She was relentlessly positive and helpful, never descending into the workplace discord that can so often happen when people spend so much time together in an incredibly busy and high-stress environment. We counted on her love, humor, and wisdom every day.

The only thing that helps me is to recognize how much I’ve learned from her over the nine years we worked together. Here are the things that came to mind as I couldn’t sleep the night she died:

  1. Take adequate time for the important things. Specifically, Deb took 2 days’ vacation time every year to do Christmas shopping for her seven grandchildren.
  2. With all due respect to our corporate leadership’s rules of professionalism, patients love being called “Honey” or “Sweet Thing.”
  3. Pregnant women blossom under loving care. But, do not hesitate to point out that all their pregnancy discomforts are coming back during menopause.
  4. You’re never too old to learn a new language or pick up a new passion. Deb learned Spanish over the past 10 years, when she saw more and more Latina immigrants coming to us for care. She was moved by their experiences and dreams of a better life for their families. She enjoyed their culture. She became a wonderful advocate and ally for them. She held 75 Centering groups in Spanish.
  5. Value your coworkers who can be flexible and hardworking. Once, when someone asked me how Deb was doing with the challenges of Centering, I told them, “You know, she just makes it work. I believe that if I told her she’d have to hold this afternoon’s Centering session in the median of the interstate, she’d shrug and make it work.”
  6. Have a vision for your life. What we do at the OB/GYN Center was Deb’s mission – she cared deeply about our patients and their communities, and she believed in the ultimate purpose behind the care we provide there. I would say that she was all heart, but she was humor and a ton of brains too. She poured it all into her work. Whenever I have days when I want to dismiss my job as “just a paycheck,” I will think of her and remember it’s a vision. Compassionate care can truly help those that really need it. And inspire those who have a chance to work alongside you.

The title of this post is borrowed from her colleague Chris’s message at Deb’s memorial service. In Mexico, the term for giving birth is “Dar a Luz,” which translates to “give to the light” or “give to light.” In helping thousands of women help give life to light, Deb shared her light with all of us. It’s now ours to share in her honor.

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