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Sleepless Nights

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Sleepless Nights

Father of six young children graduates with nursing degree

Image: Sleepless Nights

Gabe Kilmurray, 45, of Eau Claire, graduates with his associate’s degree in nursing from Chippewa Valley Technical College, Tuesday, Dec. 21. He completed the program while helping to raise his six children, all younger than the age of 7.

Nursing school is a grueling curriculum, even for the least distracted student.
Add raising six children under the age of seven to the mix, and you have Gabe Kilmurray.

Before starting the Chippewa Valley Technical College program, Kilmurray felt the pressure. But after years of working other jobs, he felt drawn to follow his dream.

“It’s never too late for an education,” said the 45-year-old Eau Claire man. “I showed up a little late to the party.”

And look where he is now – having graduated Tuesday with an associate’s degree in nursing from CVTC. It hasn’t been without hard work, late nights and a windy path to his destination.

Kilmurray was born in Anchorage, Alaska, moved to Ladysmith when he was 5 and then California when he was 10. He graduated 20 miles south of Sacramento, Calif. After graduating high school, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and became a helicopter crew chief. He left after four years and decided to move back to Wisconsin in 1999.

In 2004 he started nursing school at CVTC, but the timing wasn’t right. He had substance abuse issues that needed attention. After becoming clean, he took an ironworker job in St. Paul, Minn. The pay was great, and he enjoyed the job, but it was hard on his body.

After getting married in 2015 and having children, he realized nursing was still tugging at him when his wife’s obstetrician suggested that Kilmurray pursue a career as a nurse anesthetist.
“I already wanted to go back to school,” Kilmurray said. “I wanted to do something a little more conducive to family life and a little easier on the back.”

His wife was pregnant with their fourth child as he was taking the general program prerequisites.
“The program is challenging in and of itself, but having kids adds a whole other layer of challenges,” he said.

Then they had twins in March 2021 – his third semester (some would contend the most difficult) of nursing school.

Kilmurray tells the story of starting clinicals during that semester. He had two hours of sleep. The instructor was asking questions and he was looking at her with a blank stare. It wasn’t typical of his demeanor.

“I’m not quite sure how I got this far,” Kilmurray said with a laugh. “There were definitely some stressful days. I took naps as much as possible. It was a huge juggling act – lots of moving pieces.

“I was fortunate to have really supportive people around me.”

Mauri Moss, CVTC nursing instructor, said she is impressed with Kilmurray’s determination.

“Gabe (Kilmurray), like many of our students, go to school full time and have families,” she said. “He has mentioned the great support he has from his wife and close friends, which allows him to focus on keeping school a top priority. He was always eager to learn and seek out opportunities to further his knowledge.”

From here, Kilmurray plans to follow his dream of becoming a nurse anesthetist. But for now, he has accepted a position with Marshfield Clinic Health System in the intensive care unit.

“I feel so fortunate,” he said. “I’m going to start there and continue working on my bachelor’s degree.”

This chaotic time in his life will not soon be forgotten.

“Hands down, this has been the most stressful, challenging period of my life. But I’ve enjoyed it,” Kilmurray said. “I’m glad I decided to do it. I have zero regrets.”

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