The "Emma Song"

emma song blog image real
The Kowalysin Family

On October 20th, 2014, we made the decision to have our one-week-old twin daughter Emma transferred to Riley after discovering she had experienced a stroke in utero. That evening Emma was airlifted from our local hospital to Riley as her twin brother, Alex, continued to get the care he needed in the NICU back home.

The minute we arrived at Riley and met the staff we knew that we had made the right decision. The care and kindness they showed us that first evening will never be forgotten by our family. The following day immediate action took place. We had meetings with doctors, nurses, and the Child

Life Specialist who we adore, Angela Brennecke. It was a whirlwind of information, testing, blood transfusions, learning about ventilators, and trying to balance having two infants in two separate NICU’s three hours away.

During our stay at Riley we would make the trip back and forth between Valparaiso and Indianapolis every three days to spend time with both of our children. Thanks to the wonderful support team we had back home and the incredible nurses like Justine Isaacs at Riley, we knew that both our children were in good hands. Justine would make sure to answer any and all questions during the numerous phone calls we made when we weren’t with Emma. She helped us so that we could FaceTime Emma while we were with Alex, comforted our family as we continued to get bad news, and took the absolute best care of our daughter that we could have asked for.

The team that took care of our Emma was truly top-notch and they made us feel as though our daughter was their only patient. Dr. Jayme Allen & Dr. Ulrike Mietzsch, along with Dr. Mandy Harris, were by our side every step of the way through late night phone calls, testing, and explaining each and every test that would be done as well as what the results were to us in a gentle and understanding manner. These women get that our babies aren’t just patients and how important bedside manner as a NICU doctor is. They are some of the most amazing women my husband and I could have ever been blessed with to take care of our little girl.

When Emma was 23 days old, we held her, and Lauren Servos the music therapist sang the beautiful “Emma Song” she wrote to her. Our wonderful nurse practitioner Emma Gibson sat with us and was such a comfort to our family as we said goodbye for the very last time to our sweet baby girl.

The support team we had at Riley was there for us until the very end and still is to this day. The thing about Riley is that this isn’t just a hospital, or just a NICU, Riley is a family. Once you walk in those doors with your heart racing, tears running down your face, and completely lost as to what the next step will be with your child - they welcome you with open arms. They take every question, as well as every concern and make sure that you know that it not only matters to you, but to them as well. There are no silly questions, and every feeling or concern you have is validated because they care that much. They truly are concerned about the children they are taking care of, the family, and most important they want to be there and make a difference in your life.

Our family has created a foundation in memory of our daughter, Emma’s Footrprints. Through this organization we made a donation to Riley, and dedicated a red wagon in honor of Emma.

Our daughter was not one of the lucky ones from Riley, and we may not have our miracle story we had hoped for, but there is not a doubt in our mind that we made the right decision to have our Emma transferred to Riley. 

Riley isn’t just a hospital. Riley is family.

Amelia Kowalysin

Amelia Kowalysin and her husband Joseph live in Valparaiso, Ind. Their foundation, Emma's Footprints, created in memory of their daughter, provides support to both NICU families and families who have experienced infant loss.

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