“You don’t have to believe everything you think.” This is the favorite quote by a beautiful soul who showed up in the pew beside me one Sunday morning. A beautiful soul both inside and out who I have come to know over the last few months.
At first, Meghan Tidwell introduced herself simply as an “OR nurse who worked at Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge,” which immediately drew a connection since my husband spent time surviving Covid there in 2020.
Over time, I have learned the incredible journey of Meghan Tidwell that belies the beauty of the soul who sat beside me that Sunday morning.
Meghan was born in Knoxville, grew up in Lenoir City, and knew from an early age she wanted to join the military like her Army veteran dad, even choosing the Army Barbie as her doll companion.
As a senior in high school, she had to decide whether to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps or go to the University of Tennessee and join the Army ROTC program. She went to UT and joined the same Army ROTC program from which her dad commissioned in 1981.
Meghan dedicated herself to academic achievement and military service as she not only graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science with aspirations of becoming a lawyer, but she was also commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation.
Within a year of her graduation from college, Meghan was a fully trained military intelligence officer researching law programs when she found herself on a plane to Afghanistan to serve a year-long deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as a civil affairs team leader in the Kandahar Province.
This time in Afghanistan would turn Meghan’s plans completely around. She says, “I was firmly set on law school. But as I felt fear and vulnerability, and witnessed injuries and even death, I began to feel an overwhelming desire to want to help people through these difficult experiences. I began to feel pulled—as if out of nowhere—toward a career in nursing.”
When she returned to the states, she began to take prerequisite classes for nursing school: anatomy and physiology, chemistry and statistics. She began the accelerated BSN program. She says, “I was fascinated by the first cesarean section I ever saw and knew I would ultimately either choose to work in surgery or in labor and delivery.”
Meghan chose surgery, and went to work as a circulating nurse in the surgery department at UT Medical Center and stayed at UT for nearly four years, becoming a certified perioperative nurse. From there, she took an opportunity to join the heart team at Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, a division of Covenant Health, and earlier this year became the cardiothoracic, gynecologic, and ear-nose-throat (ENT) surgical services coordinator at this facility.
Meghan continues to serve her childhood military dream as she remained in the Army Reserve until 2018, after serving as the commander of B Co, 489th Civil Affairs Battalion which she called, “the best job in the military I have ever had.” Three years later, she opted to re-enter the Reserve as a perioperative nurse and is currently serving with the 306th Field Hospital in Forest Park, Georgia.
Meghan says, “If someone had told me just 15 years ago that I would become a nurse, I probably would have laughed them out of the room. That is primarily how I know it was a leading from God, because I never would have come up with that by myself!
“But in hindsight, I know He set me on a precise path and is still doing so, even when I can’t see around the next bend. In this way, my journey has been a huge lesson in trust: trust in the Lord, trust in others, trust in process, and trust in myself.”
Meghan has been married for five years to her husband, John, who she met in nursing school at LMU. He is a native of Claxton and also a U.S. Army veteran, which is what initially drew them together as friends while in school. They have two little dogs.
I am so thankful for that empty seat beside me that Sunday a few months ago, when I met Meghan, the OR nurse!
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