National Nurses' Day: All About Trust




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Dana Realey, RNC, in the NICU at Riley Hospital

When Max Heffernan came to us in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), he was a very complex little fellow. His parents, Kye and Ryan, didn’t know beforehand that he would have kidney issues, so they were still in that period of shock and grief.

I’ve been a nurse in the Riley NICU since 1987, and I have seen how scared parents can be with all the tubes and wires. But Kye and Ryan overcame these fears while spending every day with Max in the NICU. It was their new normal.

Kye and Ryan are such a great balance for each other, and they work well together as mom and dad. We got them up to speed on the medical aspects of Max’s care, but we knew they had the parenting side well-covered.

We’d have those days when Max’s medical needs seemed overwhelming, and it was really stressful. But in that mess of stuff going on, you find ways to make good memories, like days when we could laugh and just enjoy the baby.

Sometimes we would have time to do crafts. We found a lobster project that we could make with Max’s handprints and footprints. We got the footprints just fine, but Max didn’t want anything to do with the handprints.

That lobster is symbolic to me because sometimes things don’t happen as you want them to. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. It took us weeks to get the lobster done, but we managed to finish it. Shortly after that, Max moved out of the NICU and was able to go home.

Max couldn’t have done it without us, and we couldn’t have sent him home without the efforts of his parents. Kye and Ryan put their hearts and souls into his care, and that made the difference in him having such a positive outcome.

In the end, it’s all about trust. The families need to trust that we know how to take care of their babies, and, when they leave Riley, we have to trust that they can take care of their babies.

As a nurse, it’s nice to work with families like Max’s. I have no doubt that as he continues to grow, this baby is going to get exactly what he needs.

To make a tribute gift to Riley in honor of a special nurse during National Nurses Week, May 6-12, click here.


Dana Realey, RNC

Dana Realey, RNC, has been a nurse in the NICU at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health since 1987. Dana has a husband, Bryon, and a daughter, Isabella. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, food, animals and adventures.


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