Hope Happens Here: “Nurse Linda” Schultz

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on July 31, 2020 # Hope Happens Here: 25 Stories

Strangers seek out Linda Schultz at healthcare conferences across the country, eager to say hello and give thanks, their greetings tinged with a hint of awe: “You’re the nurse!”

To these admirers, Schultz isn’t just any nurse, she’s “Nurse Linda,” the Reeve Foundation’s in-house expert and a trusted source for many people living with spinal cord injuries. Since 2014, Schultz has fielded hundreds of questions from people around the world through her weekly blogs and live chats and monthly webinars, creating a space where community members can find support.Nurse Linda

Drawing on more than 30-years of experience in rehabilitative nursing and a PhD in research, Schultz tackles subjects ranging from neuropathic pain and autonomic dysreflexia to how to stretch catheterization out overnight to get the best sleep. A reader once told Schultz that her blogs, especially on bowel and bladder management, offered “the most bang for the buck.”

“She said, ‘Linda, you’re just so graphic, but after I read it, I knew exactly what to do,’” Schultz says.

Providing such clarity for the community is exactly the point.

“Nursing is all about teaching,” Schultz says. “You take the information you’ve gained and teach people how to take their pills, how to follow the right diet, how to take care of their health. With spinal cord injuries, it can feel like a whole other language. I’m fortunate enough to be able to help translate that for people.”

As “Nurse Linda,” Schultz cultivates conversations, not lectures, encouraging readers to not only ask her anything, but share their own advice and hacks alongside hers. Writing about the coronavirus in March, Schultz offered early and detailed preventative tips for those with spinal cord injuries, including wiping down wheelchair rims and not using mouths to assist with activities while outside the home; the blog received more than 24,000 views.

Her questions come from a wide spectrum of readers, including newly injured individuals, aging seniors, and family members, friends and caregivers seeking guidance.

Schultz works hard to ditch the medical “mumbo jumbo,” but doesn’t dumb things down; her answers are stacked with evidence-based research, clearly explained and easily understood. The end goal, she says, is to provide information that helps people living with spinal cord injuries and their families create the best possible lives.

Bernadette Mauro, director of information and resource services at the Paralysis Resource Center, describes Schultz’s impact on the Reeve Foundation and the spinal cord community as “priceless.”

“We have people calling from Australia to talk with Linda,” Mauro said. “Her information is clear and concise, and people need that. And her compassion, warmth and empathy make her a natural fit for this community.”

For Schultz, nursing has been a lifelong mission. Her father battled brain cancer for much of her childhood; watching nurses care for him shaped her desire to help others. She joined the nursing club in high school and volunteered as a candy striper at the local hospital. After college, while working at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Schultz began to specialize in spinal cord injuries.

“I found my place early on,” she says.

Eventually, Schultz landed at Washington University’s pioneering activity-based therapy program for spinal cord injuries led by Dr. John McDonald. One day, during a staff meeting, McDonald spoke about the challenge he and others in the program were having connecting with Christopher Reeve. McDonald believed the program could help him; the only problem was that no one could get Reeve on the phone.

After the meeting, Schultz returned to her office with a thought: Why not reach out to Reeve’s nurse? She picked up the phone and called the Reeve Foundation. Within minutes, she had been connected with Reeve’s nurse, and moments later was speaking with Reeve himself.

“If you only knew it was the day that was going to change your life, you’d circle it on the calendar,” Schultz.

She arranged a meeting with Reeve and McDonald, leading to Reeve’s participation in the program. As she helped coordinate his treatment over the next several years, Schultz was moved by Reeve’s advocacy on behalf of millions of people living with paralysis, but also his kindness; Schultz’s husband had sustained a disease-related spinal cord injury, and Reeve sometimes called him, providing a much-appreciated boost.

“His passion was contagious,” she says. “If there had never been Christopher Reeve, we would never be where we are today. He used his powers for good.”

Inspired by Reeve, Schultz hopes her work with the foundation continues to help the community.

“At first, families don’t know which way to turn,” she says. “But I want people to have hope, to know things are getting better. Research in spinal cord injuries is exploding. The care for people is better. There is hope for the future.”

To ask Nurse Linda a health-related paralysis question, tune in to her Reeve Foundation monthly webinar on the last Wednesday of each month, or leave her a message on Reeve Connect at www.ChristopherReeve.org/nurse.