Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Stephanie Horecky Hall, MSN, APRN, NNP-BC, is one of two winners of the Second Annual NICU Heroes Award, presented by Mead Johnson Nutrition and Hand to Hold. The awards recognize outstanding NICU health care professionals each year for their compassion, courage and perseverance in improving outcomes for medically fragile babies and their entire families.
Stephanie Horecky Hall first fell in love with neonatology in high school when she had the opportunity to spend time with her best friend’s mother, neonatologist Dr. Evelyn Goldston. Throughout her 15-year career she has helped countless families who are experiencing parenthood crises, giving them her unwavering support and serving as a patient advocate for the tiniest and sickest of patients.
In 2004, while working as a bedside nurse at the Medical University of South Carolina NICU, Stephanie met Mary Ann Lilly.
Mary Ann Lilly’s daughter Kristianne Elizabeth was born on June 21, 2004 at 26 weeks, weighing only 1 lb. 7 ounces. Kristi was immediately admitted to the Medical University of South Carolina NICU where Stephanie was on duty. Stephanie and Mary Ann formed an instant bond. Stephanie was not only on Kristi’s medical team, she stepped into the role of advocate and caregiver, taking care of baby Kristi, but also her mother and father, as well as her 10-year old big sister Rachel.
Mary Ann describes this time in her life as a roller coaster ride that was made better because Stephanie made time to help the family both inside and outside of the hospital. In the NICU, Stephanie took time to explain complicated medical terms, encouraged the family to take care of themselves, let Mary Ann stay by Kristi’s side, and coordinated Kristi’s care with the neonatologist and others. When she was off duty Stephanie went above and beyond her job description, taking Rachel out for fun outings, or just spending time with her.
During her 20-day stay in the NICU Kristi developed fungal meningitis. Stephanie was at the airport, ready to board a flight with her husband, when Kristi took a turn for the worse. Stephanie left the airport and returned to the hospital to support Mary Ann and care for Kristi.
Kristi passed away on July 20, 2004. Once again Stephanie was came into the hospital and stayed with the Lilly Family, taking Rachel with her while Kristi’s parents grieved for their loss. “She made the most horrible night a little bit better,” said Mary Ann Lilly.
Meeting Stephanie even inspired Mary Ann to pursue a new career. “The coordinated care and compassion we received while Kristi was in the hospital inspired me to become a nurse,” says Mary Ann Lilly, who is now a NICU Nurse at McLeod Hospital in Florence, SC.
Mary Ann’s connection to Stephanie has stayed strong for more than 10 years. The two have made a mutual effort to stay in touch, cultivating years of friendship. Rachel has even stayed in touch with Stephanie and stayed with her for extended visits during summer months. Mary Ann describes Stephanie as a caring, honorable professional who was, and still is, there for her family.