A Time to Say Thanks (St Cloud NICU Reunion)

Did you know this week is National Nurses Week? I didn’t even know there was such a thing…until nurses became our real-life superheroes.

When Jax came home from the hospital, we made a video thanking the nurses and doctors that saved Jax’s life. In honor of National Nurses Week, I took another look. I cried – it’s so hard to see pictures of Jax so small and helpless. It’s hard to think just how serious a situation he was in when he was born…

Jax spent a month in St Cloud. It was the scariest time of our lives – Jax was very sick and we were a long way from home. The doctors and nurses made us feel like family. They did everything they could to help make it easier for us to understand what was happening. Dr Ajayi, the neonatologist who was there for Jax’s delivery, ended every report with a “prayer point.” These short term goals where what helped us put one foot in front of the other – and gave us something to hold on to when other things weren’t looking so good.

So, when we found out about the St Could NICU reunion on Sunday May 5, we knew we would go. It was strange driving up there again. For some reason, I couldn’t remember how to get there – it’s like I blocked out making that drive everyday for a month. I’d forgotten how beautiful St Cloud actually is when you’re not there to make life-and-death decisions for your child. We were worried “would they even remember us?”

Well, no problems there! They all remembered the “23 weeker that was born on vacation!” Even some parents came up to us and said they had heard about his story. There were hundreds of other families there with healthy kids running all around. I could see it in every parent’s eyes, the sense of gratitude and kinship that comes with knowing how  it feels to breathe a sigh of relief when your child is discharged from the hospital and you think to yourself, “whew that was a close call.” There’s also the underlying sadness for all the babies that didn’t make it.

We got to tell our care team in person just how much we appreciate them. Jax gave out a lot of smiles and happy squeals and loved being held by his nurses. We heard what it was really like for them to take care of Jax, one of the youngest babies ever to have been in their NICU. We heard things like “I cried each night for him.” and “He was so sick!” and “We learned alot from Jax.” and “When you left (to go to St Paul) the nurse practioner called us to tell us so we wouldn’t think the worst when we came in the next day.”

We knew how much they affected our lives, but we had no idea how much Jax affected theirs. 

We were so thankful to be able to hug them and tell them how much they mean to us!

Nurse Jenny

Nurse Jenny and Nurse Deb were there during Jax’s delivery. They made Steve feel more comfortable by explaining what was happening while they were rushing down the hallway to the NICU. Nurse Deidra, at my request, practiced healing touch on Jax every night on the overnight shift. (If we had had more time in St Cloud, I have a feeling Deidra and I would have become friends.) Nurse Deb (we had two!) had the most peaceful presence about her and she always made me feel like I was making the right decision.

Nurse Deb, Nurse Diedra, and Nurse Deb

Nurse Mary Ann always called Jax a “good boy” or a “bad boy” depending on how he was doing that day. When she saw him yesterday, she said “Oh – look at that good boy!” just like I knew she would…

Nurse Mary Ann

The St Cloud Hospital is also one of the first NICUs in Minnesota to offer a March of Dimes Family Support Program. Jen, our support specialist, did everything she could to make the NICU experience better for families. A couple of times a week, we celebrated a crazy holiday like “National Ice Cream Day” with sundaes in the family room and “National Relaxation Day” with a head scratcher. I still have all the funny gifts she gave us – they helped lighten the mood. She took photos of our tiny baby and sent us a CD after we were transferred. She shared her own experiences with the NICU. I felt lucky to have her support!

March of Dimes Family Support
March of Dimes Family Support

So, in honor of our nurses and the staff  in St Cloud, we say thank you! Thank you for everything you did to save Jax’s life. Thank you for everything you did to make him comfortable. Thank you for everything you did to make us more comfortable. Thank you…there are not enough words…thank you!