NICU nurses are back where they started

By Russell Rian / August 2010

When Miosotis Torres and Chelsea Lott arrived at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at St. Paul Medical Center (now UT Southwestern University Hospital-St. Paul) for the first time, each weighed less than 2 pounds and had been delivered at 25 weeks.

And each grew up to become a registered nurse now working in the very unit where they came into the world fighting for life.

Aziza Young (center), nursing manager for the neonatal intensive care unit at UT Southwestern University Hospital-St.Paul, was working in the unit when Chelsea Lott (left) and Miosotis Torres were infants fighting for life in the unit. Now, Ms. Lott and Ms. Torres are her nursing colleagues.

Aziza Young, a nurse at the time Ms. Torres and Ms. Lott were delivered, now serves as nursing manager for the NICU.

“Preemies taking care of preemies. It’s so cool,” said Ms. Young. “It’s an added dimension of the care that you can’t go out and recruit.”

Ms. Lott and Ms. Torres both were twin deliveries, but their siblings didn’t survive. As the NICU nursing team at St. Paul checked the babies’ vital signs every few hours, fed them and tended to their needs over the next three months, little did they know the tiny infants would one day be their co-workers.

“I weighed 1 pound, 8 ounces when I was born,” Ms. Torres said. “I could fit in a shoebox. My foot was the size of my dad’s thumb, and he could carry me in one hand.

“When I was little, my parents would always brag about their miracle. They didn’t know whether I was going to make it, and the doctors told them I might have all these complications – all the ‘what ifs’ that could happen,” said Ms. Torres. “Since I turned out OK, I just always thought it was a calling. I felt the need to give back.

“I’d always heard talk about the nurses and the good care I received, and I wanted to be part of that. It really wasn’t a question. This is what I was meant to do.”

Ms. Lott felt a similar calling.

“It definitely had an influence. My mom had some very close relationships with some of the nurses, and I had wanted to go to nursing school since kindergarten. All the boys wanted to be firefighters, and all the girls wanted to be teachers. I said, ‘I want to be a nurse.’

“We attended many of the NICU reunions, and at one of them I told them I had decided to go to nursing school. You can’t get rid of me. So this is where I am a few years later. It’s my way of giving back, I guess you could say.”

Nurse Julie Ramsey also remembers caring for them at the time: “There’s a sense of pride – a good feeling – that they were born here, we took care of them, and now they’re working here,” she said. “It’s like watching your own kids grow up.”

Their own tale of survival also helps fortify some parents in the most difficult times, Ms. Young and Ms. Torres agreed.

“I tell parents that I was a preemie,” Ms. Torres said. “It definitely gives them encouragement and hope. And it’s good for them to know I came back to St. Paul.”

Ms. Lott said her experience gives her unique perspective on what parents are going through.

“I talk to my mother about losing my sibling, and I think that makes my nursing skills better,” she said.