The Greatest Honor: Walking Beside Families

lemons blog image
Jim Lemons, M.D.

I came to Riley to build a research program. I thought we'd be here five years, and we've been here almost 40 because we saw what could be. I never appreciated, until probably 25 years had passed, how much our research has influenced practice. Much of what happens in Newborn Intensive Care Units (NICUs) all over the world is due in part to what we've done at Riley.

We grew our division from three faculty to over 50 of the very best people one could want to be with. And we trained a lot of people as well. I traveled a lot because I wanted Riley to be known. All of that led to many different interfaces with different organizations and initiatives. That's how I got involved with the deaf community and, for 23 years now, in Kenya, where 20,000 babies are delivered each year in the Riley Mother Baby Hospital.

I’ve always loved the relational part of the NICU, getting to know the family members of our babies at levels you can't imagine. I wasn't staffing the unit when the Buhrman family came in, and I didn't take care of Theo directly. I just happened to get onto an elevator with Rick, and I asked, “Are you a dad?” We started talking, and I got to know the family well as they traveled a complicated medical journey.

What has enriched me most over time has been getting to walk beside these families. I've been honored to work all over the world, and I have found that what makes this work sustainable are the relationships. You cannot care too much. It is exhausting, but I always feel enriched in ways that I never could have imagined by these relationships. I feel spiritually refilled and energized just by being able to do what we do.

I’ve also learned that if a family is informed of their options — and that's our job, to provide the best clinical care and the highest quality medical information, and to walk through it all 20 times with them if need be — and if they love their child, then love should lead the way. I talk about love a lot at Riley.

I'm 72 now. I’m no longer running our division, but I still love to teach and meet families, so I asked if I could continue to work. Being able to do this kind of work and to still be engaged in so many different things makes every day a new day of enrichment. 

I count my blessings, which seem endless now, and I do get emotional. Ultimately I'm awesomely surprised by the tens or hundreds of thousands of people I’ve met and the families we've taken care of, who have given us so much.

Click here to read Theo Buhrman’s Riley story from the Spring 2017 issue of Riley Messenger magazine.

Jim Lemons, M.D.

Dr. Jim Lemons is a Riley Neonatologist and the former Section Chief of Neonatalogy at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

comments powered by Disqus

Browse More Blog Posts

View Blog Posts by Category
Sign up for Riley Blog Emails