Before Justine was born, compassion was something that I knew existed but never fully understood. I donated money when my friends would fundraise for a charity. I helped cook meals for the homeless at shelters. And I even collected money for the American Heart Association the first two times I ran the marathon. I knew these were all good things to do because it helped people. For the most part, that is where my thinking stopped. I never thought of the impact I had on these people’s lives or what it meant to them to contribute to their cause. I just knew people needed help, I blindly helped them and called it compassion.
Then Justine was born. We were already trying to figure out how to survive being new parents, but with all of Justine’s complications early in her life, we were drowning. Each of Justine’s seizures pushed us deeper and deeper into a pit of sorrow and anger. And we needed help. Desperately. I just needed to look around to see that help was there all along.
The nurses in the NICU are people that you only hear about and never see. They are working tirelessly in the background doing everything they can for you and your child. They are your eyes and ears to the hospital and they have such compassion for the families they help. One of Justine’s first nurses made such an impact on us, Nurse Ann. She would always make sure we understood what was happening to Justine, whether it was a new medication or a new blood test. She was so great with Justine and also with us. She even had a conversation with me about how I needed to go home and get some sleep one of the nights I stayed by Justine overnight. She cared. In the short time we were at Northwest Community Hospital, she always told us the truth. When we asked if we should transfer Justine to Lurie’s downtown, she agreed, with no hesitation. She was there to see Justine get better. A newborn she had just met.
When we finally did transfer to Lurie’s all of the nurses in the NICU lined up outside to say goodbye to us. I remember thinking how many times they must have done this in their career and if they ever wonder if the child is going to make it. I wondered if they thought if Justine would make it. I wondered if she would. We hugged everyone before we left in tears because they were so good to us, especially Nurse Ann. Throughout the 47 days in the NICU we crossed paths with many NICU nurses and nurse practitioners who showed the same kind of compassion that Nurse Ann did that first day. I never knew how important it was until I was receiving it from others.