Celebrating Neonatal Nurses Day

Celebrating Neonatal Nurses Day

In celebration and recognition of September 15 as Neonatal Nurses Day, we'd like to share these thoughts from Valley Children's NICU Manager Jeannette Cutner, BSN, RN:

We were called early to hold, to rescue, to help and to nurture. It is our life, our world, and gratefully our purpose. NICU nurses see the world through a different lens, we cradle the sanctity of human life every day. We see life in its most raw, vulnerable form and somehow by the grace of our inherent hope for humanity and immeasurable depth of courage and hard work we do what we do. 

Birth may come too early, or genetics may be unfair, but we stand in a circle of strength around these little ones who are fighting for life and we do just that: we help them fight for their breath of life to continue. One baby saved is like a small pebble tossed into the pool of life, the concentric circles continue for generations. 

Each story is a testimony to the power of nursing  and medicine and to the fighting spirit of each baby. The Neonatal Intensive Care environment is intense, intimidating, scary and yes, overwhelming. It is steeped in emotions of fear and at times profound sorrow. However, at the same time, the caregivers fill it with understanding, hopefulness, compassion, determination, talent and expertise. The secret “soul skills” of a NICU nurse are profound because they possess a soft tenderness which is balanced delicately with amazing strength and genuine love.

On August 7, 1963, Patrick Kennedy, the third child of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, was born. He was born at 34 1/2 weeks gestation with a birth weight of 4 lbs, 10 oz, Because of his progressive respiratory distress, he was transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital, where he was placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, and sadly died at 39 hours of life. The morning after his death, Patrick’s obituary in The New York Times pointed out that, at that time, all that could be done “for a baby suffering from respiratory distress was  to monitor the infant’s oxygen levels and to try to keep it near normal levels. Thus, the battle for the Kennedy baby was lost only because science has not yet advanced far enough. 

Two years later, in 1965, the first American newborn intensive care unit (NICU), designed by Dr. Louis Gluck, opened at Yale Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut. Over the next four decades so many advancements have been discovered and achieved.   Successful treatment of these newborns, with gestational ages as low as 23 weeks, was made possible by surfactant replacement therapy, improved perinatal management, new technologies for maintaining temperature, precision micro-management of fluid delivery, sophisticated nutritional management, and continued improvement in ventilatory management. 

The first NICUs were regionalized, but today, because of the generosity of five female  philanthropists, we have a state of the art NICU within our hospital. We deliver extraordinary care to this most fragile and vulnerable population.

Our Neonatal George Flight program that has transported thousands of babies from our surrounding communities so that they can receive the care they need to survive. We give our families who must travel far a place to rest and sleep, and yes, a quiet place to pray and weep. Every year our NICU has a reunion of our graduates. The families gather to celebrate the life which at one point they felt they had lost.

We are all a part of that story. An infant's destiny itself is like a wonderful tapestry in which every thread is guided by tender hands, supported and held and carried by so many others. We are a part of that tapestry.

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