"I Knew My Babies Were in the Right Place."

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Alexandria and John Dattilo

It’s a joy to see the community and Riley team members come together through The Gift of Hope Happens Here campaign. Riley means so much to me, especially at this time of year. I’m glad to give back in any way I can.

It was December 9, 1998, when I became a Riley mom in addition to being a Riley NICU nurse. My husband John and I welcomed our twins, Alexandria and John, who arrived at 29 weeks gestation – two-and-a-half months before their due date. I was so thankful they were at Riley. I knew that they would be in excellent hands.

All of their doctors were outstanding, as were the nurse practitioners, nurses, respiratory therapists, and support staff. Dr. Jim Lemons explained to us what was happening and he was kind enough to bring Dr. Laura Haneline, who would be present at the birth, to my hospital room the night before delivery to prepare us. This helped put me at ease, knowing that Dr. Haneline would be there. After they were born, we felt fortunate that Dr. David Boyle and Dr. Merv Yoder would be their neonatologists throughout their stay. Mary Fox was one of the nurse practitioners that worked with them and did such a great job managing their care. The entire team was very knowledgeable, personable and professional. We were blessed to have such an amazing assembly of talent available right here in Indiana! 

As you can imagine, I’m partial to our nurses and respiratory therapists and the personal connection and support they provide to the babies and their families during such difficult times and circumstances. Our personal experience was no exception. Sharon Mowery, one of their admitting nurses, was the first nurse I talked to after they were born. It was very comforting for me to know she was caring for them. Gail Hocutt, Jodi Cook, and Michelle Upton were their primary nurses and provided excellent care throughout our stay. The experience of being a NICU mom gave me new appreciation for my nursing colleagues at Riley. They are incredibly skilled at what they do, and the fact that they have such skill along with their compassion—it really is the whole package!

I remember so much of our time in the NICU like it was yesterday. I recall the night my son was having respiratory complications and our respiratory therapist Peggy Johnson along with Brenda Hook, RN, took such great care of him. I could list more names, — many still work here, which says a lot about the dedication of these incredible people! I knew my babies were in the right place.

As a Riley nurse, you don't always think that you will be on the other side of it, but things in life just happen. I remember sitting in the rocking chair by their isolettes and telling Dr. Boyle that I would be a better nurse after watching what they were going through. He told me I would be a better nurse because I was sitting in that chair. I think of that sometimes when I'm caring for the babies and talking with the families.

Today, Alex and John are 18 years old and doing great, with no follow-up medical care needed after their NICU journey! They are seniors at Zionsville Community High School. Alexandria will be attending Butler University to study Communication Science and Disorders this fall and John plans to go to Ball State for Business Marketing.

Every year when I'm working in the NICU around the holidays, I think about when my twins spent their first Christmas at Riley. I really do love my job and have been able to share my experience with many families. Hopefully at times it brings them comfort. We will be forever grateful for the excellent care our family received.

Janda Dattilo, RN

Janda Dattilo is a nurse in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. She and her husband John (President/CEO of BHI Senior Living Inc.) live in Zionsville, and are the parents of Riley NICU graduates John and Alexandria, 18, and their sisters Kate 15 and Janie 12.

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