WCCH nurse named CDC's 2016 Childhood Immunization Champion - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

WCCH nurse named CDC's 2016 Childhood Immunization Champion

West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital maternal child educator, Christa O'Neal, has been named the 2016 Childhood Immunization Champion for Louisiana by the CDC. (Source: KPLC) West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital maternal child educator, Christa O'Neal, has been named the 2016 Childhood Immunization Champion for Louisiana by the CDC. (Source: KPLC)
SULPHUR, LA (KPLC) -

A Sulphur nurse who is playing a critical role in protecting children from life-threatening diseases has been named the 2016 Childhood Immunization Champion for Louisiana by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Registered nurse and West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital maternal child educator, Christa O'Neal, is a true shot in the arm for the community she serves and that is what led to this special recognition.

Shots can be one of the most dreaded appointments for parents, and children when they realize what is about to happen.

But O'Neal, she mixes in her compassion for children and teens with her passion for nursing, something that she always knew she wanted to do.

"My mom was a nurse and I actually have a sister that's a nurse, also," she said.

O'Neal says she can remember watching her mom getting ready to go to work at this same hospital decades ago and she followed in her footsteps as soon as she could, launching her nursing career 24 years ago.

"I am a certified child birth educator, I'm a certified lactation counselor, I'm in charge of the hospital's Shots for Tots program, I do gestational diabetes education.  So my daily schedule fluctuates," said O'Neal.

In the daily grind, O'Neal rolls up a lot of sleeves, administering vaccinations that have changed the face of medicine.

"From when I started giving immunizations, I've given thousands of shots," she said.

One shift O'Neal says she has seen just in the past 10 years is among parents who seem more concerned about the side effects of the vaccine, rather than the disease it is protecting against.

"Complications that come along with these diseases are much worse than the side effects to the vaccine," said O'Neal.

It is the education element of these moments with patients and parents that lights the fire in O'Neal's soul.  Her dedication was recognized by the CDC, who named her the 2016 Childhood Immunization Champion for Louisiana.

"I was very honored," she said.  "I was very honored to even be considered, let alone be awarded.  It was a big surprise."

O'Neal says she has no plans to retire any time soon, so she could soon be vaccinating a second generation as her earliest patients are now having families of their own.

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