DECATUR, Ga. - In the hush of DeKalb Medical Center's Neonatal ICU, nurse Hannah Oliver prides herself on not just caring for the newborns, but mothering them.
"I treat my patients as if it's my baby,” Oliver says. “And, I know it's not my baby, but I want that baby to have the care I would want my child to have."
Because Oliver had a NICU baby of her own, 16 years ago, when her daughter Abby was a newborn.
"She was born in the winter,” Oliver says. “And, at 5 weeks old, she actually stopped breathing at our house. We actually did CPR, brought her back. She was transferred by ambulance to Egleston, and we found out she had RSV."
Abby was placed on a ventilator, and spent 6 weeks in Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's NICU, monitored around the clock by nurses.
"I couldn't have made it without them,” Oliver says, “When I was watching Abby in the hospital, and the nurses, just how awesome there were, how they had us in their care, I just said to myself, 'I want to go back to do this, when the timing is right, I want to go back to do this.'"
Oliver went to nursing school, and today she's one of 8 DeKalb Medical NICU nurses who are former NICU moms.
“People don't realize that 10% of all babies need a NICU stay,” says Oliver. “That's a big number. That these babies need extra help, sometimes for a day, sometimes for 6 months."
Lauren Duncan is another NICU nurse who is also a former NICU mother, and she knows the experience is tough on new parents.
"It is hard for someone who doesn't have any grasp of the medical field to come in and see a sick baby and understand what's going on,” Duncan says.
Duncan was just 18, when her son Devon was born with life-threatening anemia.
"When I first went into the NICU, the first words out of my mouth were, ‘So my baby is coming home in a few days?’ My baby was not coming home in a couple of days."
Devon is now 19, and healthy, and Duncan is the Nurse Clinical Coordinator of the DeKalb NICU. She and the team focus not just on the babies in their care, but their parents.
"It is such a rollercoaster ride to have a baby in the NICU,” says Duncan. “You can have good days and bad days, and your good days and bad days can change so quickly."
So, the NICU moms turned NICU nurses want new parents to know their little ones are in good hands.
"All they see is that little baby,” says Duncan. “That's their everything. That's their world."
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