Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Woman of Wilson: Rachel Deffendall

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Wonder Woman? Possibly. Woman of Wilson? Definitely.

Rachel Deffendall seamlessly juggles marriage, motherhood and a medical career - and is always up for a new adventure.

Deffendall, whose parents are Dan and Kathy Johnson, was born and raised in Lebanon. She graduated with honors from Lebanon High School - placing 16th in her class - before setting her sights on Cumberland University.

"I always knew whatever career path I chose, I wanted to help others. Nursing just seemed to be the best fit for me," Deffendall explained. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing in 2003.

"During my last semester of nursing school, I completed my critical care rotation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the trauma and burn units. My first day of this clinical rotation I was part of the intake of multiple critically ill burn victims flown in from a mass casualty out of Kentucky," she recalled. "Over the next couple of months, I heard the helicopters landing on the helipad overhead and I knew this is where I one day wanted to be."

After graduation, Deffendall spent several years gaining experience in the ER, ICU, cardiac cath lab and the pediatric ER at Vanderbilt. During this time she also obtained her specialty certification as a CEN (certified emergency nurse) and her paramedic certification and licensure. In 2009 - her dream of being a flight nurse for Vanderbilt LifeFlight came to fruition.

Deffendall said she completed rotor wing flights covering Middle Tennessee and fixed wing flights, transporting patients from as far as Nebraska and Wisconsin.

"LifeFlight was a fast-paced, adrenaline rush job, 24 hours at a time. I completed over 500 flights, and during each of those flights I was caring for someone going through the worst time of their life," she said. "People often ask me, 'What is the worst thing you have seen?' Honestly, for one, I am not sure I would want to share the details of some of the things I have had to witness. And second, I am uncertain if I could even narrow it down to one experience. But of all the horrific stories, good did prevail at times."

Deffendall remembered the many lives she's helped save.

"There is no way to describe the feeling of being able to walk into a patient's hospital room and shake their hand two days after suffering a cardiac arrest, undergoing CPR for over 30 minutes and them personally speaking the words, 'Thank you for saving my life,' as they hold on to your hand," she said. "Pre-hospital and emergency medicine unquestionably changed me. It truly made me grateful for the blessings I have and reminded me daily to not take a single moment for granted."

Some fun facts about Deffendall's LifeFlight career include - she was able to teach life-saving techniques to groups from the Army's 5th Special Forces Group out of Fort Campbell, and she appeared as a flight nurse in Tim McGraw's music video for "Highway Don't Care." She also appeared in Season 2 of the television show "Nashville," caring for star Connie Britton's character Rayna James.

However, all good things must come to an end - and sometimes greater things come along - like babies.

"I resigned from LifeFlight in January 2016, just prior to having our daughter," she said.

Deffendall is the proud mother to three children: Connor Jones, 9; Eli James, 4; and daughter Ryan Alyse, 4 months.

Deffendall currently serves as a nurse practitioner employed by The Surgical Clinic, LLC. She is credentialed at Summit Medical Center and works for the department of surgery specifically with general surgeon, Dr. John Boskind.

Deffendall is married to David Deffendall. The two wed in Lebanon on November 22, 2014.

"Being married to David allows me to be 100 percent of myself, 100 percent of the time. He accepts me for me, flaws and all," she explained.

A self-proclaimed "type A" personality - Deffendall noted that she is complimented by David's "go with the flow, it-will-all-work-out mentality."

"He is definitely my calm and my rationale when I need it. Although I grew up Baptist and David was raised Catholic, we have been blessed to find out church home at First United Methodist in Lebanon," she added. "We have had our share of struggles, but through it all we have been able to grow together as a couple, learning the definition of compromise and finding that laughter truly is the best medicine. Plus, with David, I am never in need of a karaoke or dance partner!"

Deffendall credited their families with helping to balance their work and personal lives.

"Nothing we do as a family would be possible without the love and support of the large families we have. We are blessed with three sets of family - my parents, the Jones and the Deffendalls," she said. "Everyone works together to provide for all of us, and for that we could not be more thankful. It's wonderful to look up in the stands at one of the boy's ballgames and see all three sets of grandparents cheering them on."

Even when the average day includes four to five events - work, meetings, school, ballgames, swim lessons and more - Deffendall is reminded of her many, many blessings of love and health.

"My family motivates me to be a better person, mother and partner," she said.

Deffendall enjoys cooking meals for her family several nights each week.

"Our time at the dinner table is one of my favorite times of day. The boys say the blessing before every meal, and Eli routinely follows grace with asking for everyone's highs and lows for the day," she said. "This is a time we all get to slow down and reconnect as a family."

Her other hobbies include exercising, going to the pool or being on the golf course - a fairly new activity she's taken up in the last five years. The family also takes outings to the zoo and beach.

"I love being able to keep my children active and watch them enjoy the activities that I did growing up," she said.

Deffendall listed her mother, Kathy, as a woman who she admires.

"She worked hard throughout my entire childhood to always put her children's needs first. Many of my experiences growing up were due to her sacrifices. Even now, she is an extraordinary help to me with my own children. I am thankful of her daily."

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at sgarrett@wilsonpost.com.

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