Thursday, August 9, 2012

NICU Staff

By Rob Berry

It is the beginning of August and I am half way through my summer vacation. Time to count my blessings.

So far my family and I have had a very successful road trip to visit Hazel's grandpa, we've successfully finished the landscaping of our back yard, my wife and I have had many opportunities to do 'normal' family things with our ex-24 weeker Hazel and I've had the great pleasure of being a stay at home dad for the last four weeks. Life really couldn't get much better right now.

One of the things I like most about this time of year is that life really slows down. The most consistent event on my calendar this time of year is afternoon nap time with our little girl.

This afternoon I was having difficulty falling asleep and my mind started to wander as it often does. I started to think about how dramatically my life has changed in the last year since we brought Hazel home last July. It has been a really busy year and at times it has been super intense but I wouldn't trade a second of it because being a dad is simply amazing.

My thoughts then shifted to Hazel's time spent in the NICU where she had so many amazing professionals working tirelessly to make sure she got strong. I can't help but feel fortunate for everything these people did for us. They gave us our daughter plain and simple. I don't know of any way we could even begin to appropriately thank these people for what they did.

I will admit, having your little one in a level three nursery for months is not fun. No parent should have to experience fear and uncertainty around their child's birth and yet sadly, so many people do.

One of the many things that got us through our time in the NICU were the relationships formed with so many of the staff members. What amazes me now is how so many of them took the time to talk with my wife and I even when we knew they were super busy.

These conversations were often specific to our daughter and her medical needs, sometimes they were merely conversations to help ease the stress of situations we were facing and other times we would simply talk about everyday things. Whatever the reason, these conversations brought a sense of normalcy to a very abnormal situation.

I have read about many horror stories people have experienced with NICU staff and I can't help but feel grateful for our experience.

One of my biggest tips for parents in the NICU is to remind them that staff is there because they love those little boys and girls in the isolettes. I know it is easy to sometimes lose sight of that when it's your little one that is the patient but I can't help but believe that it's true. I can't imagine anyone lasting in that profession without a true desire to help these little miracles grow.

Another tip for the NICU is to foster and develop relationships with doctors, nurses, rt's and other support staff. My wife and I learned so much about prematurity and how best to help our daughter thrive and be successful by simply talking with staff and by being as friendly as possible. These lessons were invaluable when we finally brought Hazel home. We were prepared as best as we could be and that brought so much comfort.

Were there times we had concerns about our daughter's care? Certainly. Most of the time my level of concern came from not fully understanding the situation at hand. A few good conversations and generally my level of anxiety went way down.

The few times conversations didn't relieve my anxiety and there were some real concerns, staff knew us as calm and rational people and situations were dealt with swiftly and compassionately.

Leaving the NICU last July was one of the happiest days I've ever experienced ranking up there with the day I married my wife and the day she told me we had a little one on the way.

It was also a sad day in some ways as we were leaving some amazing people behind. Funny how an extended stay in the NICU bonds people from all different walks of life. Many of the people on that ward felt like members of our extended family when we left.

My wife and I took Hazel in to visit the NICU staff a few months ago right around the time of her first birthday. It was such a great moment and was so reassuring to us as parents. The Charge Nurse that so carefully watched over Hazel's progress for months was there. She knew our daughter like nobody else and had a real affinity for her. The Charge Nurse was so happy to see our daughter was doing so well. It was amazing that she remembered so much about our daughter after so much time had passed. It was a true testament to her level of professionalism.

The nurse that first had Hazel when she came up from Labor and Delivery then appeared. She recalled so much about her first few hours and days of life It was incredible. It reminded this dad that that little girl really had come such a long way.

One of our favorite nurses then appeared and took Hazel on a trip all around the ward to visit staff members who were working that day. Of course Hazel was in that stranger danger phase and started to scream like a banshee. Everyone took it in stride and marveled at how strong her lungs had really become.

This was a great moment for us as parents but I believe it was equally amazing for the staff. It became clear in an instant that our children have a huge impact on the lives of these amazing people. They are there with us through the good times and the bad and no doubt go through a range of emotions due to the nature of their work. I feel so happy that with our little visit we could somehow give a something back.

I am looking forward to the final few weeks of vacation. As I enjoy these days I will continue to count my blessings and remember these amazing people who gave us our beautiful little girl.

Thank you to all of the professionals who make a living helping our children grow and reach their full potential. I am sure at times your job is thankless but please remember, you really do make a difference in the lives of so many people.


  1. Rob,
    As a NICU nurse, the Mom of a 26 weeker and the Mom of a preemie in heaven-it is true. We truly love those babies. In or out of an isolette we "work" there because of our passion for life, for medicine, for humility and in my case to give back. The families that stand out to us are the ones that we remember forever. Each of us have families that we bond with for some reason or another and we know their baby as if they were our own. I admire your positive outlook on your NICU stay and I know that the NICU looks forward to you birthday visits.

  2. I am also a nurse, preemie mom and like you said Rob, the nurses were my family. I had planned on going to nursing school when my son was born but never in a million year did I think I would ever want to work in a NICU. I'm currently finishing my RN and my dream would be to work in the very NICU that my son spent the first 5 months of life in. To give back what the nurses gave me, strength, courage, hope, and most of all life. I trusted my sons life in their hands and although it was a long hard road, they were right, we did go home, and 7 years later, I don't think theres any way I could properly repay them!