RN: Real Nurses - Jeanne Gartner

Pediatric oncology nurse Jeanne Gartner has her head in the clouds. Jeanne not only is a nurse, she’s an FAA-certified hot air balloon pilot.

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012

Written by Stephen Garrett for UNC Health Care

Pediatric oncology nurse Jeanne Gartner has her head in the clouds. But not when she’s at work. Along with her colleagues at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital, Jeanne offers state-of-the-art medical services with empathy and love. You can see how much she cares for her little patients within moments of observing her in action. And you would never guess what a thrill-seeker she is!

You see, Jeanne not only is a nurse, she’s an FAA-certified hot air balloon pilot.

For this episode of RN:Real Nurses, photojournalist Nathan Clendenin and I followed Jeanne to Las Cruces, New Mexico during one of her twice-yearly reunions with the crew of “Cool Beans,” her hot air balloon.

The Mesilla Valley Balloon Rally begins very early in the morning – even before the sun rises over the Organ Mountains to the east. Trucks and vans hauling balloons descend on a field that is marked off in a grid and crews begin to assemble their delicate aircraft while pilots receive a weather briefing.

Jeanne’s balloon was scheduled to be the first in the air on the first day of the rally so that she could fly the American flag for the gathered crowd.

The plan was that Nathan would film me taking off with Jeanne and her crew, and he would follow in a second balloon to capture the action from two different camera angles. Having never ridden in a hot air balloon, I was a bit nervous. I mean, it’s basically a tiny basket attached to a giant angry gas barbeque grill hanging beneath a nylon cloud. But once we launched, it was so peaceful! We smoothly rose into the air and drifted along with the wind. It was an amazing experience.

Enjoy this month’s episode. We sure had a wonderful time making it.

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