When Lezlie Brown-Zoller joined CHOC as a young nurse in 1973, she had no idea she was beginning a family legacy that would continue to this day. Fifty years later, three generations of women are all integral parts of the CHOC tapestry. In addition to Lezlie. her daughter. Meghen Reahm, has been a CHOC nurse for 22 years, 14 of them as a charge nurse. The most recent member of the family to take up the CHOC mantle is Meghen’s daughter, Erika Hertz, who joined the hospital as a patient transporter a year ago while she attends nursing school. If a gene exists for empathy. it runs deep in Lezlie’s family.
“I always wanted to be a nurse from the time I was a kid,” Lezlie remembers. “I loved taking care of people. I loved making sure people were okay. It just innately felt right to me to be a nurse.” It was actually her younger brother who led Lezlie to CHOC. He required surgery at the hospital and, while visiting him one evening. a nurse came down from the ICU and introduced herself. They got to talking and Lezlie shared that she would soon be graduating from nursing school. The nurse encouraged her to apply and she was hired on the spot.
With an employee ID number in the single digits. Lezlie began a career that would take her all over the hospital. “Grass did not grow under my feet,” she says. “I was an RN and team leader when I first started here, but I worked every unit in the hospital. I became a relief charge nurse in the pediatric ICU as well as the first charge nurse in the Surgical Short Stay Unit. I opened our Day Health Center in 1994 and became an inpatient director. I worked every floor, then I became a nurse manager for our Santa Ana clinics and eventually created a new position as education coordinator. I also did infection prevention.”
Like mother, like daughter…like daughter
Meghen’s first experience in nursing came when she was in first grade and tried to nurse an injured grasshopper back to health. She thought about veterinary school. but a major turning point came in high school when her mother was in a serious ATV accident. After three weeks in the hospital, including the ICU and a long rehabilitation. Lezlie came home to continue her recovery. “I was absolutely intrigued, not only by the care she received in the ICU. but I loved helping to take care of her at home,” Meghen remembers. “I was in the nurse’s shadow the whole time and knew this was where I was going to go in life. CHOC was always part of our family growing up, so I knew I wanted to work in pediatrics.”
Erika inherited her mother’s passion for working with children. “I love kids, so this job is right up my alley,” she says. “Plus, I often hear how highly the other nurses speak of my mom and grandmother, so that was my inspiration for becoming a nurse.” She recently began her studies at Cal State Fullerton, a point of pride for her beaming grandmother. “Cal State Fullerton received 2,500 applications and only 40 were accepted. Erika was one of them,” Lezlie says of her “smart cookie.”
A legacy of healing
When Lezlie wanted to retire in 2014, her supervisors tried to talk her out of it, not a surprise considering her extensive resume. She stayed on as a contract employee. and in the latter stage of her career began studying healing touch, a nurturing energy therapy that uses gentle touch to assist in balancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. She also studied to become a life span doula, helping to ease the transition for patients at the end of their lives. Now a volunteer, Lezlie wants to see healing touch become part of an integrated spiritual wellness program at CHOC.
To that end. Lezlie recently made a significant cash gift to help fund the program and was recognized, along with Meghen and Erika, with a butterfly in the Garden of Messages, an outdoor space of healing and community. She also is establishing a new legacy with a provision for spiritual care programs in her estate plan. “I believe in CHOC and I believe in healing touch,” Lezlie says. “I hope that I can create a legacy of healing touch wellness that benefits everyone-patients, families and staff. I want to set up a strong foundation so this program will continue long after I’m gone.”
This story appeared in the January 2024 print issue of the CHOC Chronicle newsletter.
Philanthropic support from CHOC associates helps give families access to services that they otherwise could not afford.