18 years ago, my oldest son was born at Kaiser Permanente in Walnut Creek, California. He was born with a congenital heart defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA), which means the pulmonary and aorta arteries are reversed and the blood isn't oxygenated and doesn't circulate properly. It would have been fatal. The Boy was huge, weighing in at 8 lbs 11 oz. and his initial Apgar scores were 8 and 9. There was no reason to suspect any problems.
The nurses who cared for him in the NICU at UCSF were amazing. So sweet, kind and patient. They loved those babies and their parents. We lived about 45 minutes away from San Francisco, so we would return home each evening and sleep in our own bed and then return to the hospital the next day. Each night we would call and talk to the nurse on duty to see how The Boy was and each morning, we would call again to see how he had done during the night before driving in to the hospital again. The nurses were always kind as they answered questions and talked to us.
In what might seem like a controversial decision to some, we did not go to the hospital the day of The Boy's surgery until after it was done and then we saw him post-recovery. We knew that he would not know if we were there or not and sitting in a waiting room for 8+ hours wouldn't do us any good. My sister came and spent the day with me and we did some shopping and The Doctor had wanted some time to himself. The nurse who took The Boy down to surgery called me and told me that he had been calm and not fussy at all. She reassured me that all was well and I will never forget her soft, sweet tone as she answered my questions. We knew approximately what time his surgery should be done and we called the hospital. Once we knew he was headed toward recovery, we drove to San Francisco. The nurses were wonderful that night as we saw The Boy post-surgery, which was a traumatic thing to see.
The Boy spent nearly 3 weeks in the NICU and at times, I felt so guilty, because for the first 6 days, here was this ginormous baby who looked perfectly healthy, in a bed next to little tiny babies who had so many heart-breaking conditions. I knew I would take my son home and so many parents in that NICU didn't have that promise. One baby who had been in the crib next to The Boy passed away one night and the next morning it was heartbreaking to realize he was gone. I had spoken with his mother several times.
A few weeks after The Boy came home, we went back to the hospital where he was born and searched out Carolyn. She told me, "I lied to you that day. I didn't suspect jaundice." I said, "I know that now. Thank you." Her reply to me, "I was just doing my job." I cried as I hugged her and replied, "No, you were our guardian angel and you saved his life."
The NICU is a special place and it takes a remarkable, incredibly special person to be a nurse to sick babies. I will forever be grateful to those doctors and nurses who cared for, loved and ultimately saved my son's life.
September 15 is Neonatal Nurse's Day. This is a beautiful tribute video and well worth the few minutes it takes to watch it.