Nurse at ETCH, Ashtyn Fritz, uses former cancer diagnosis to help

Ashtyn Fritz was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5. She made it her life goal to become a nurse. Now she is back in the hospital that saved her life.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – One of the newest nurses at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital now works on the same floor where she was once treated as a patient battling childhood cancer.

Ashtyn Fritz was diagnosed with leukemia when she was a month before her sixth birthday. She spent a lot of time at ETCH as a patient battling blood cancer, undergoing treatment and bonding with the staff.

Fritz knew from an early age that she wanted to be a nurse and give back to others the way they did for her. Now that dream is reality. It’s a really full circle moment that she doesn’t take for granted.

She can interact with patients on a level that others cannot.

“I think what I’m most excited about is that it’s not about me anymore,” Fritz said. It’s not my story anymore. It’s the stories of little children now.”

She remembers eating only Oreo blasts from the cafeteria, which is still there by the way, and the nurses who made her time there special. Now her heroes are her colleagues.

“When I come back, I still see the energy that was there 16 years ago, and the staff here is amazing,” Fritz said. “I see that they are doing their best for patients, as they are for me.”

She was told at a young age that she would fall behind in school because of the treatments and medicines. She never let those words down her. Instead, she used the doubt to fuel her determination.

The now 22-year-old graduated from East Tennessee State University in May 2021 with a degree in nursing amid a global pandemic.

“It’s just really cool to prove people wrong and go back to where these people saved me,” Fritz said.

Although it has always been her dream to help children here, she did not expect it to happen so quickly. She just got the call from college.

“When I got the interview, I was over the moon, and when I found out I got the job, I remember calling my mom, she was so excited and I was like, ‘This really isn’t,'” said Frits .

While it’s hard to see kids fight like her, she can offer hope through her past struggles.

“For a long time, especially when I was growing up, I didn’t know, ‘Why me?’ Like why did I have to go through that,” Fritz wondered. “Why didn’t other kids? But looking back now, I wouldn’t change anything because it made me who I am today and it made me a fighter.”

She also wants to keep the circle going.

“It’s just amazing to watch these kids because even though I was one of them, they still amaze me and it’s just incredible what these kids can do,” Fritz said.

Her adversity changes lives, patient by patient.

Fritz is originally from Jefferson County, Tennessee.

I am honored to have the opportunity to interview the inspiring Ashtyn Fritz to share how she returned to…

Posted by Katie Inman on Thursday, August 19, 2021

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