ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — You can’t help but smile when you hear Lindsay Arenas laugh. Her positivity is contagious. And it’s what sets her apart at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

Lindsay visits a patient in the surgical neurosciences unit at All Children’s.

Every day for the past 17 years, Arenas has not only put her nursing skills to good use but also her bright personality which plays a significant role in the lives of her young patients.

“They’re having one of the hardest moments of their lives here,” she said.

She cracks a joke, tells a story, lends a listening ear — anything to help ease their worries.

“Those are the things that matter and those are the things you remember years down the line,” Arenas said.

She knows this because she lived it. Before Arenas became a nurse at the hospital’s Surgical Neurosciences Unit, she was a long-term patient there, battling a rare genetic condition.

“I was pretty much living here in All Children’s for almost those two years, I had about 20 surgeries,” she said.

Arenas was in kindergarten when she was diagnosed with the rare bone disease Multiple Hereditary Exostoses, or MHE. The genetic disorder causes abnormal bone growths all over the body and requires multiple surgeries. Her three brothers had it too and all of them spent years in and out of All Children’s.

“A lot of the same things that we treat surgically, I had it done to myself. So I can relate to the patient that has a chest tube and I can relate to the patient who had spinal surgery. And I can tell you all of those things and those feelings,” she said.

It’s a unique perspective that allows her to be an advocate for her patients and the families she serves.

“I think I can bring a different ear and a different perspective and maybe a calming attitude that we’re going to get through it and it’s going to be okay. So I think that’s very special to do,” Arenas said.

Arenas says she never thought she would return to All Children’s after graduating from nursing school but that now it all makes sense.

“I went through that for a reason. There was a plan with that and now I can take those experiences and make other kids’ experiences easier and make other kids’ experiences better,” she said.

That includes the experience of her own son who, at 7 years old, is now a patient at All Children’s after being diagnosed with the same condition as Arenas.

“It can be easy sometimes and it can be hard because I can know as a nurse all these different angles that I need to watch for with him and then to separate that as my role as a mom, I definitely struggle a little bit with that balance, but it’s nice to be reminded that my team has my back,” Arenas said.

Some of the same nurses that once took care of her are now her coworkers and friends, also motivating her son to make a full recovery.

You can call it fate but to Arenas, it’s a gift.

“All Children’s is family. So, I feel very lucky to have the opportunity for them to take care of my own family,” she said.