My 3-day old infant daughter N stopped breathing in our home, and my husband had to perform CPR. The weeks that followed were the most terrifying of my life. N spent 12 days on ECMO, followed by various ventilators and support. She has been making a miraculous recovery, but in those first few weeks we weren't sure if she would recover at all.
N isn't our only child, we have an 11-year old, and an almost 2-year old at home. Somehow we needed to balance the needs of our sick baby with the needs of our other children and ourselves. My husband and I split our time during the day, with one of us at the hospital and the other one of us with the kids at home. We worked hard to have a parent bedside as much as possible; I felt strongly N needed to know she had a family who loved her, and that there was more to life than what she was experiencing. For the first several weeks we couldn't even hold her, we could only be near her. Leaving her side was a heart-wrenching reality but it was necessary.
We met many nurses, especially in those first few weeks as everybody took a turn on the ECMO pump. Everybody was smart, sharp, and capable. Some nurses stood out from the rest as particularly kind, but Thu-nguyet outshone them all. We met her early on; we were surprised to learn that Thu-nguyet not only shares a birthday with N, but her older sister shares a birthday with N's older sister and they are also 11 years apart. It's like the universe intended Thu-nguyet for our family, to get through this hard time.
Thu-nguyet became a regular at N's bedside. Knowing N was in Thu-nguyet's care meant she would not only be safe, but she would also be loved. I often arrived to find her gazing lovingly at N, smiling and even singing to her. This gave me the strength and permission to indulge in self-care; to take a much-needed nap or even have lunch with my husband. It was comforting to know N had this loving touch by her side always, even during procedures where I couldn't be nearby. I know she could sense the compassion in Thu-nguyet's eyes and touch. I like to think that helped her to feel safe; it definitely helped me feel safe.
Thu-nguyet has advocated for N when it was needed, our doctors were hesitant to move N's feeding tube from oral to nasal while she was still on oxygen. N has a particularly sensitive gag reflex, and the tube in her mouth was causing discomfort and blocking our ability to make progress on oral feedings. Thu-nguyet advocated for our daughter during rounds, and the doctors agreed to try the nasal feeding tube. It's gone very well and made N much more comfortable.
Thu-nguyet has gone above and beyond her duties as a nurse to provide affection and comfort both to a sick baby and to her scared family. On the occasions where she was working as a team lead or otherwise not assigned to N, Thu-nguyet made a point to check on her throughout the day. It's clear she doesn't just care for N out of duty, she cares with her heart. I have never met anyone who loved their job more than her.
We are blessed that N is recovering well and that she has been moved out of the NICU and into the Intermediary Nursery. While we miss Thu-nguyet by our bedside, it's comforting to know she is on to the next scared family feel a little more at ease. As our daughter grows, we keep Thu-nguyet dear in our hearts forever.