Giving Tiny Hearts and Lungs Time to Heal

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Cooper and Ashley Hecker with Erynn Evens, RN

I have been a nurse for six years, and I have spent five of those years in the NICU at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

My work days can entail many things. On some days, I serve as an ECMO tech, and I am with my patient for my entire shift. ECMO is a machine we use when our traditional therapies are not enough. Basically, it takes blood out, oxygenates it, and returns it to the body. It provides time for the heart and lungs to rest and heal. The ECMO technician stays with the machine at all times to monitor and troubleshoot when necessary. We also assist the bedside nurse when they need us.

We have roughly 30 "runs" of ECMO each year. Last year, 2014, was our greatest in numbers, with 40 ECMO runs. So far for 2015, we have had 20 runs.

Being with my patient for the entire day allows me to get to know the babies and their families very well. I am there not only to take care of the ECMO "circuit," but I also educate and update the families on our progress.

The Heckers are one wonderful family that I have got to know because of ECMO and our NICU. Cooper is the sweetest baby, and he surprises us all regularly. I have met many of his family members and gotten to know them very well. His mother, Ashley, is here daily and helps me with his care. Knowing they trust me to care for him is such a great feeling. I love taking care of Cooper, and patients like him are why I work here. I can be a part of the team from the beginning and see all the progress he has made. He has a wonderful group of NICU staff and family that take great care of him. I'm so glad to be a part of it.

I love getting to know our patients and their families. We work very closely with each other in the NICU. However, what I love most is when they can be discharged home. I am sad we don't get to care for them anymore, but they visit us when they have follow-up appointments and send us cards. It is so nice to see how well they do!

The most challenging aspect of our work is when things don't go as hoped. The reality of our field is that nothing is 100% guaranteed. It is a hard truth to face sometimes when you feel like you've done everything you can. It is those times that really bring us together to support our families and patients.

When you give to Riley, your donations make a difference. They touch our patients on many levels. The donations provide resources that help us serve our patients. We have so many services and programs that are only available because of donations.

Even the smallest things can make days here so much brighter.

Erynn Evens, RN

Erynn is a 2009 graduate of Indiana State University who works as a nurse in the NICU at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. She fell in love with NICU work through a capstone NICU course during her senior year of nursing school. Erynn and her husband live in Indianapolis with their two dogs.

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