Happy (soon-to-be) National Neonatal Nurse’s Day! Have I told you all lately how proud I am to be part of such an amazing group of talented people? Too often, my recent e-mails have been “please do this,” “please don’t forget that” and not filled with enough: thank you for choosing this amazing profession, for doing the very best you can each day you are here. Thank you for caring for the tiniest of patients and their families, and for each other and for me. I have been doing some self- reflection over the past several days, especially with recent September 11 anniversary this week.
I changed as a person that day. I think it would be hard to find anyone who didn’t. I was raised in New Jersey and most of my people are still there. I grew up with each school class trip taking me into New York to experience the museums, Broadway, the Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers. I loved to look up and watch each tower “sway” near the top. What you might not know is that both my father and brother are firemen in New Jersey, and were on September 11, 2001. My father has been a volunteer fireman for longer than I have been alive (translation–a very long time!) and my brother was recently named the fire chief of his volunteer fire company in Independence, New Jersey.
As a family, we had moved back to Connecticut in the spring of 2001. That summer was amazing in the northeast, cooler than normal, with low humidity. I remember taking my three children into New York City with my parents in August 2001. We visited Ellis Island and Liberty National Park. My oldest children were 9 and 7 and my youngest was barely 2, so we chose not to climb Lady Liberty that day. Instead, we opted for running at her base and taking a great photo opportunity with the beautiful lower Manhattan skyline as the backdrop. I remember getting this picture developed and receiving it in the mail on September 1, 2001. Who could imagine that in ten days, that skyline would be forever altered? I look at that photo today and realize what a gift it is to have. I am grateful that I was living close to my family during that time. I needed to be able to hug my family close and tell them that I loved them. I needed to tell them how proud I was that they chose to volunteer their time saving stranger’s lives by rushing towards burning buildings when every instinct should be to run in the other direction. I wrote my dad a letter shortly after the attacks expressing some of those thoughts. To this day, he keeps it tucked behind the above photo in a frame on the fireplace mantle.
So what does all of this have to do with Neonatal Nurses Day? The anniversary of that day reminded me how, and why, I changed. It reminded me that I promised from that day forward to tell the people that I care about how important they are to me, and sometimes to the world at large. I was never again going to wait for a tragedy to remind me to take each opportunity to tell those closest that I loved them, to say thank you to those who make a difference in the lives of others.
So to all of you, I want to say thank you. I appreciate the opportunity each day to work as a nurse—changing lives in a different way. I am exceptionally proud to work as a NICU nurse and realize that we too are heroes in our own right. I am humbled as I look around our NICU family and watch the difference each of you make in the lives of the families we care for and in the lives of each other. And I need to continue to fulfill the promise I made eleven years ago and tell you that you are important, that the compassion and empathy you give of yourselves makes a difference and that I appreciate how much you care for me and for each other.
Happy national neonatal nurses day to each and every one of you!
Terri McLauchlan, RN, is a NICU nurse and neonatal services educator at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center.