Finding Hope in the NICU: National Doctors’ Day

March 30, 2016

On March 30, National Doctors’ Day, physicians across the country are recognized for their work. I always had an appreciation for doctors and their ability to see the big picture as well as the important details, but I never knew how much a doctor could change my life until my son was born four months early.

It was 11 o’clock at night when I first met my son’s neonatologist. When he approached us, I bombarded him with questions. Worry and anxiety spewed from my mouth and heart with an intensity that intimidated even me.

As I questioned the doctor, I peered through the plastic walls of the isolette at the smallest baby I had ever seen.

Our first family picture in the NICU, taken by NICU nurses

Our first family picture in the NICU

Our son, who did not have a name yet, weighed barely more than a pound. Tubes and wires overwhelmed his tiny twig-like limbs. I could not see his face; all I saw was the blood pumping through his transparent skin.

We stood by our son’s incubator, and every time an alarm sounded, our hopes for a happy, healthy family were replaced with fear.

The magnitude of what our family was facing was sinking in and I was overwhelmed with thoughts of everything that could go wrong.

The doctor was small in stature and unassuming; his hands were gentle and confident as he examined our son. The doctor finished his examination and stepped aside to show us our son’s tiny feet. I burst into tears. I had been so worried about all the tubes and machines and fear that I had forgotten to look at my son’s feet.

The doctor took my hand and gently guided it into the incubator. He placed my hand on my son’s foot and looked at me with kindness and patience. “Your son has five toes on each perfectly formed foot. Your Prayer Point for right now is that these toes stay nice and pink.”

When I first hear the words “Prayer Point,” I was a little taken aback. My husband and I weren’t religious people, so we weren’t sure how to interpret the doctor’s comment. We asked him what he meant.

Finding Hope in the NICU

“I know how overwhelming this is right now,” the doctor began. “The Prayer Points will help you to focus your thoughts and worries. I’ll give you a new Prayer Point, or a short-term goal, every day. Then you can focus on that instead of being consumed by all of the what-ifs.”

We learned to look forward to the doctor’s Prayer Points. Some days, it was celebratory: “Today, the baby will open his eyes for the first time.” Other days the Prayer Point was terrifying: “Today, he will not need heart surgery.”

Prayer Points helped us keep our eyes on the positive: a successful feeding, weaning oxygen, weight gain, and eventually, a smile from our baby.

Most importantly, the doctor’s Prayer Points gave us hope.

We still think about that doctor often. Throughout my son’s journey, I’ve found myself intentionally focusing on Prayer Points to help me get through a tough diagnosis. Without Dr. Ajayi’s compassion and insight, I would have been consumed with what-ifs and unable to appreciate the small and inspiring details of my son’s fight. Our son’s doctor made a difference in our lives, and for that we are thankful.


National Doctors’ Day is held every year on March 30th in the United States. It is a day to celebrate the contribution of physicians who serve our country by caring for its citizens. The first Doctors’ Day observance was March 30, 1933.

Is there a doctor who made a positive impact on your family? How will you honor and celebrate their dedication to caring for your family?