On December 29, 1995, I was born at Christiana Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware. I was 29 weeks gestation, and spent the first 6 weeks of my life in an open-bay NICU. Since rooming in wasn’t an option, my parents drove to the hospital everyday to come see me. My mom’s number one priority was to come into the NICU to feed me, pray for me, and provide kangaroo care.
However, on January 6, the blizzard of 1996 struck the Northeast United States, bringing a record snowfall of up to 4 feet in some areas. The governor declared a state of emergency and banned all vehicles from the road except essential emergency personnel. That day was so hard for my parents. It was the only day that they did not come to see me (we handle snow a lot better up North), but it was also the day that they realized that they could rest easy because I was in good care. My parents grew to love my nurses, and hearing them talk about the impact that nurses had on our family’s life is what made me want to become a nurse myself.
Almost 23 years later, I began my career as a NICU nurse at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina. I started the New Grad Program in July, and was scheduled to work my first shift off of orientation on Wednesday, September 12. Starting on my own was enough of a reason to be a little anxious. Then we started to receive the news that Hurricane Florence was heading straight for the Carolinas.
As the storm became a reality, shelter in place was initiated at 7:00, Wednesday night. My first shift off of orientation turned into a 135-hour shift, as we remained at NHRMC for six days!
Now I, a former NICU graduate, was able to be the nurse that stayed with our patients through the storm.I found such gratitude in this. Since my nurses took such great care of me, I was now able to do the same for other NICU babies and impact their families’ lives as well. One of my patients was 4 months old, finally on his way to going home, and I was able to talk to his mom on the phone each day and reassure her that he was receiving lots of love here. In between care times, I held him in his rocking chair for hours, and was able to escape my worries about the storm.
My other patient was fortunate enough to have her mom there with her, and my role shifted to being a friend. We shared lots of laughs during our 6 days together, and I sometimes visited her room even while I was off, just to talk.
Before all of this, I was so worried about working “alone.” But I quickly learned that even though I was off working on my own, I would never be alone. I realized that I was surrounded by a team that was happily there to help anyone that needed it, and that I had a manager that would do anything to make sure that we were feeling okay.
I even had my best friend Rielee there to share the experience with me!
I couldn’t have asked for a better career to have, or a better group of people to work with. Although my NICU stay as a patient was extremely hard on my parents, they couldn’t be prouder to see me back in the NICU now!