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The Gift of Life: Expressions of Gratitude from a Thankful Mother

Nurses pictured with baby Sharon

December 2004 — Sharon Rose was born on November 4, 1985, weighing a mere 3 pounds, 12 ounces. She received 50 days of around-the-clock care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at what would become Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. Nineteen years later, the nurses who cared for Sharon were invited to attend her high school graduation party. In the company of friends and family, Betty Cushing, RN, and Sue Shepard, RN, were honored to be a part of yet another important milestone in Sharon's life.

An Early Thanksgiving

Joyce and her husband, Dominick, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Davie, were excited when they learned they would be having their sixth child. But only three months into her pregnancy, Joyce was diagnosed with placenta previa, which required bed rest and blood transfusions. Three months later, back-to-back ultrasounds showed that there was hardly any amniotic fluid and it appeared that the baby, a girl, had no kidneys, a symptom of Potter Syndrome. Joyce's doctor scheduled a third ultrasound. During the interim of three days, family and friends prayed. "I felt at peace that our baby would be fine," says Joyce. "When I underwent the next test, the doctor found her kidneys right away."

After an emergency Cesarean section two weeks later, Sharon was born. Miraculously, her lungs were fine and she had two healthy kidneys. The only problem was some nerve damage around her mouth. The lack of amniotic fluid had constricted her in the womb, pushing her face against her mother's sternum. As a result, she was unable to suckle and had to be fed through a tube in her nose.

Tender, Loving Care

Very delicate and unable to feed properly, Sharon would spend almost two months in the NICU. Betty, who worked the day shift, and Sue, who worked the night shift, became Sharon's primary nurses at a time when the benefits of one or two dedicated nurses for a patient were not yet recognized. "From the moment Sharon went into the NICU, we felt that Betty and Sue were angels sent to care for our child when we couldn't," says Joyce. Dominick adds, "I was very touched by their attention to Sharon. They made a profound difference by nurturing and caring for her the way Joyce would have."

Betty and Sue, both of whom became registered nurses through Memorial Healthcare System's scholarship program, provided a seamless continuum of care for Sharon while she was hospitalized and are quick to share that the entire staff of the NICU is committed to this type of care. In addition, they gave something special — their hearts. "As a pastor, I spend a lot of time in hospitals and these nurses really went above and beyond," says Dominick. "In addition to the special attention they gave Sharon, they always had positive attitudes and treated us kindly. They became a vital part of our family."

Moments to Remember

While Sharon holds a very special place in Betty and Sue's hearts, she is not alone. "We never know when someone will recognize us when we are out in the community," says Betty. "They remember everything we said to them — and we remember them, too. But when we were invited to Sharon's graduation, we couldn't believe the family had tracked us down."

Ninetee-year-old Sharon receives a kiss from Sue and Betty.

At the graduation party, everyone recognized the two nurses, including Sharon. "The family used old photos to make a DVD album, and we still had the photos that Sue and Betty took while Sharon was in the hospital," says Joyce. "They didn't want us to miss a moment of her first days and weeks." Many of the photos showed one or both or the nurses holding the tiny infant. The celebration not only honored Sharon's achievement, but also was a thank you to Sue and Betty for their loving care. Her parents see Sharon as a miracle baby.

"Any preemie who was born 20 years ago and is as healthy as Sharon is a miracle," says Sue. "Joyce and Dominick don't think that Sharon would have survived without us, but we don't see it that way. We always tell parents that what they do at home with their new baby is most important — love and care will help their baby thrive. The family had faith, as well."