Coming Full Circle: Ex-Patient Returns as Nurse

Yali Derman, RN, knows firsthand what it’s like to be a patient at Lurie Children’s. When she was just 4 years old, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and experienced a recurrence of the disease when she was 10. During her treatments, Yali leaned on not only her family and friends for support, but her nurses as well. Two of those nurses that inspired and helped her through the tough times are now her colleagues. 

Yali says, “It’s an honor to finally practice in the field I have been studying and dreaming to be in — especially at the place I have been yearning to return to! Nurses have a privileged presence to stand in the way of suffering and build meaningful connections with their patients and families just as my nurses did for me.” She continues, “I can’t wait to trek the healing journey on the other side of the stethoscope! It’s exciting to consider that the nurses who cared for me are now my teachers, my colleagues and continue to be treasured friends. Happy Nurses’ week!”

Yali and nurses.

Yali and nurses
Yali, as a patient, with her nurses Allison Parise (top) and Maureen Haugen.


During her frequent and extended inpatient stays when she was undergoing treatment as a child, Yali found that a way to cope with her disease was by expressing herself creatively. Art therapy provided by the Family Services Department at Lurie Children’s played a vital role in Yali’s treatment and recovery.

In high school, Yali began providing creative outlets to patients who are currently undergoing treatment at the hospital by hosting design workshops.

In Spring of 2009, Yali designed and debuted her first, Yali’s Carry On ®, a handbag representing the cancer experience. Proceeds of the bag sales benefit K.I.D.S.S. for Kids, an affiliated organization of Lurie Children’s that raises money for the Family Services Department. To date, Yali has raised nearly $200,000 for the hospital.

To learn more about Yali’s Carry On ® or to purchase a bag visit

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