HENDERSON — Joy Pipes is used to helping children through painful situations.
Then there are times when students fake illness or simply need some tender loving care, which she is pleased to give.
Ms. Pipes, 76, recently was honored for her service at convocation. During the event, Superintendent Keith Boles told employees that Ms. Pipes has reached a career milestone that “99 percent of us will never reach.”
“After 50 years, she is still going strong and attending to the needs of students,” he said.
Stacey Sullivan, director of human resources/communications, agreed with Boles, saying, “Henderson ISD is a strong district because of dedicated individuals like Joy Pipes. For the past 50 years, Joy has come to school each day with a smile on her face and a true calling to meet the medical needs of the children. We are very fortunate that Joy has given her life to the students of the Henderson community.”
Wylie Primary School Principal Kim Buckner, who has known Ms. Pipes for about 35 years, described her as a “professional lady in any and every aspect” and someone who “always puts needs of children first,” even eating lunch with diabetic students to ensure they eat what they should.
When Ms. Pipes began her tenure in 1962, there were two nurses for all Henderson schools. The nurses did not do immunizations at the time.
“We traveled from school to school. We basically took sick students home and checked for head lice a lot,” Ms. Pipes said.
She said that was not always easy because a lot of students lived miles outside of town, so it would take a long time to take the student home and return to school.
Back then, she did a lot of treatments for children who were injured, which included soaking feet and cleaning wounds.
There also were more cases of Chickenpox and measles.
But, she said shots have taken care of a lot of infections, and she must ensure that students have the immunizations they need to come to school.
While she handled many different situations, the one phone call she hated to make was calling parents to tell them their child has head lice.
“I don't care how you put it, they think it's a stigma to it, which it's not,” Ms. Pipes said. “It doesn't make any difference who you are, you can get head lice. If you're exposed to it (and) don't know it, you're going to get it.”
Ms. Pipes now likely sees 35 fourth and fifth grade students each day, or more if something like the flu is going around. She does vision and hearing screening for students as well as scoliosis screenings.
“I like that because I get to see each student individually and visit with them,” she said.
No matter how many students come in, she said she considers each of them her own.
When asked why she's stayed in Henderson ISD, she reiterated her love for students and commended co-workers, saying the district has great teachers and support faculty, and she's never needed anything that she didn't get.
But that doesn't mean she hasn't experienced challenges and sadness. For instance, she said a student with diabetes died one day before she was supposed to start seventh grade. If she had been in school, nurses could have saved her, Ms. Pipes said.
She said it also is a challenge to read each child, especially when school starts, to determine if they're physically sick or there for another reason.
“Every child who comes to me, I know a lot of times they just want some (attention), and I give them that, but I make sure they're not sick …” Ms. Pipes said.
“We don't diagnose, but it's a challenge to be able to tell what's wrong with the student and get it taken care of. A lot of parents expect us to do a lot of things that we're not really supposed to do.”
Besides students, she said she also sometimes deals with irate parents. One time, a student's father picked up a butcher knife and came after her.
“The mother got between us, and I just got in the car,” she said.
She also recalled when she had to go out in the country in her new car and ended up with a flat tire. A resident ended up changing it for her.
Ms. Pipes plans to continue working as a nurse as long as she is healthy and able.
Her motto is, “It takes so long to do so little.”
“It does. I work so long, maybe 30 or 40 minutes, to get a student home (for something) that should be a phone call and send them home …” Ms. Pipes said.
But “I know people that go to work who don't like their job, but I've always liked mine — always …” she said.
“I'm just friends with them (students). They love me and I love them.”