On the Inside Looking Out

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The Dougherty Family

As a Child Life Specialist at Riley Hospital for Children, I never imagined I would be on the inside looking out. Like so many of the families we serve, I experienced firsthand what it was like to "live" in the hospital for almost an entire month.

My son, Lincoln, was born prematurely at 34 weeks and 5 days. I didn't even get to hold him after he was born and was whisked away to the Riley NICU at Methodist Hospital.

The weeks that followed were a blur of heel sticks, optiflow adjustments, and a roller coaster of emotions. Just when we thought we were about to go home, he would have another apneic episode or some new change in his health.

Being a Child Life Specialist I never thought I would need to be "child lifed," but I did. Our Child Life Specialist, Karen, gave me the support I needed and a reluctant but necessary break out of the room. The staff was so amazing and supportive during our stay. The nurses became an extension of our family and I looked forward to seeing who was working each shift. They went above and beyond to make sure my husband and I were comfortable.

Lincoln is doing much better now and I have adjusted my diet to meet his MSPI (Milk Soy Protein Intolerance) needs. He is such a happy baby! Being on this side of the patient room door and helped me to grow clinically as a Child Life Specialist. I am now able to relate to the families I serve in a way I never was before.

While it was really hard, I am so thankful for our time in the NICU. I know Lincoln received the best care possible and we are a stronger family because of this experience!

Caitlin Dougherty

Caitlin has been working as a Child Life Specialist at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health for more than five years. She works on the burn unit and created the My Burn Journey App and co-founded the Bear in the Chair school reentry program with Kathy McGregor. She considers her son Lincoln to the greatest accomplishment in her life. As Caitlin says, “He has been such a blessing to our family and even though he came sooner than we expected, I wouldn't have it any other way.”

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