For the endless hours and countless ways nurses bring comfort to the suffering, this special book gives a hug to a thoughtful nurse that will be truly memorable. Touching stories, thoughtful messages, poignant sayings, and paraphrased Scriptures convey appreciation and admiration for the work nurses do day in and day out. Give a caring nurse a hug today that will wrap around the soul like warm arms of affection.
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Philis Boultinghouse is the author of the best-selling Hugs for Sisters and several other books. She has served as managing editor for Howard Publishing since 1991. As a speaker to women's groups, Boultinghouse brings her understanding of the needs of women to her insightful writing. Married for thirty-two years, she is the mother of two grown children, Jason and Crystal.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Little Annie wasn't much different from the hundreds of other tiny babies who'd come through the neonatal intensive care unit of Morris Memorial Hospital. Just like all the others, she was dangerously below normal birth weight. She weighed just three pounds, eight ounces when she'd been born. Like the other premature babies, her heart and lungs were underdeveloped. And like other preemies, little Annie had numerous tubes invading her tiny body, carrying precious nutrients and medications into her fragile system. She also had probes and wires attached to her paper-thin skin, monitoring her heart rate, temperature, pulse, and oxygen levels.
But for all her similarities to her NICU cohabitants, there was something different about Annie.
Annie was alone.
The visiting hours in NICU were very strict -- nine to ten o'clock in the morning, four to five in the afternoon, nine to ten in the evening, and one to two in the morning. All the other babies in the unit were visited regularly. Weary moms and dads and concerned grandmas and grandpas made daily visits to the isolated unit to stroke, sing to, or simply feast their eyes upon their beloved offspring. They cooed softly, touched gently, and cried silently.
Some of the babies were so sick and so small that physical touch was too much stimulation for their underdeveloped nervous systems. But even the parents of these babies came to gaze longingly on the objects of their affection, willing the tiny bodies to grow and become strong.
In the beginning, Annie's mother had come with the rest. But she always came alone. No friends or family ever accompanied her. No husband, no grandparents -- no one. During her visits, she spent more time looking around the room or at the other babies than she did looking at Annie. She would stand by Annie's Isolette, leaning on it a little, looking forlorn and hopeless. She didn't ask questions like the other parents did; she didn't touch or talk to her tiny little girl. She came to the hospital out of a manufactured sense of duty, and she had no intentions of getting attached to the baby that, deep down, she knew she wouldn't take home.
It wasn't just that she didn't expect Annie to live; she had no desire to take on the responsibility of caring for this needy human being. Her visits became more and more sporadic until, eventually, she didn't come at all.
But Annie wasn't completely alone.
There was someone who cared, someone who stood by her Isolette and gazed longingly at her, someone who stroked her spindly legs and hummed sweet songs in the night. Marcie was an NICU nurse who worked the night shift. She watched Annie's mother during the first few weeks; she saw her growing detachment and her gradual decision not to love her little girl. And as Annie's mother's heart pulled further and further away, Marcie's heart moved closer in.
In some ways, Marcie identified with Annie. Like Annie, Marcie had no one in her life who cared just for her. Sure, she had friends and family -- lots of people who loved her in a general sort of way -- but since her husband's death two years ago, Marcie had come to the awful realization that she was no one's "special only."
Annie's need to be someone's "special only" touched Marcie deeply. Marcie had no idea how she would make it happen, but her resolve to see that this baby was loved and cared for grew with each passing day.
Yet it was the night Annie was crying inconsolably and couldn't be comforted by the usual methods that Marcie's resolve became personal. Annie now weighed five pounds and was strong enough to be held. NICU babies who had no regular visitors were routinely rocked by volunteer aides during the day, but at night, it was the nurses who rocked the babies as they had time, and Marcie always volunteered to rock Annie.
It wasn't difficult to persuade the other nurses to pass on Annie. Annie's mother had been a heavy drinker, and her alcohol consumption had left Annie with fetal alcohol syndrome. You could already see some physical signs of the disease: a small head, drooping eyelids, and a thin upper lip. Though the abnormalities were not severe, Annie didn't have the same "cute" appeal as the other babies in the unit.
On this particular night, Annie's shrill screaming was agitating not only the other babies but the entire nursing staff. Marcie had finished most of her routine duties, so she offered to take Annie from the frustrated nurse who was walking and bouncing the screeching bundle in a futile attempt to quiet her. The weary nurse willingly gave her up.
Marcie dragged a rocking chair into the supply room, pulled the door shut -- leaving it open just a bit so she could see -- and turned off the bright overhead light. Cradling little Annie in her arms, she rocked her gently back and forth...back and forth. Marcie improvised a lullaby as she rocked: "It's time to go to sleep; it's time to close your eye-es. It's time to lay your head down and go to sleep, my darling." But Annie's cries only intensified, and her tiny body arched and stiffened. No matter how Marcie rocked or held or positioned her, Annie continued to cry. Marcie was running out of ideas.
Then she remembered a technique she'd learned in nursing school years ago -- it was something she'd taught many mothers to do but had never had the opportunity to do herself. It was called "kangaroo care." Marcie unwrapped Annie's blanket and draped it over the arm of the rocking chair; then she removed Annie's hospital-issue pink gown, leaving her clad in only her diaper and warming hat. Almost timidly, Marcie unbuttoned the bottom half of her scrub shirt and placed little Annie against her bare abdomen. Then she loosely closed her shirt around the baby to keep her warm and resumed her rocking and quiet singing.
Annie's fierce screams subsided almost immediately, and her little body seemed to melt into Marcie's. A peaceful warmth filled Marcie. She was profoundly aware of the need of this helpless human being for someone to love her constantly and unconditionally -- someone who would love her as a "special only." And Marcie was just as aware of her own need for someone to love.
Skin to skin, the two of them rocked together in quiet bliss for nearly half an hour. Thinking Annie was asleep, Marcie opened her shirt and laid Annie on her lap as she reached for the little pink gown. But Annie's eyes were wide open, and she stared lovingly up into Marcie's. Not wanting to shatter the moment, Marcie covered Annie in her little blanket and returned her intense gaze. At that moment, two lonely souls connected -- it was a spark that ignited Marcie's imagination and fired her determination to take this baby into her life -- to care for her and raise her as her own, to love her as her "special only."
Marcie had no idea what the adoption process would entail, but she felt a peace and resolve that the desire of her heart would become a reality. Marcie was no longer gazing into the eyes of one baby among many; she was gazing into the eyes of her "special only" -- the eyes of the tiny baby she knew with all her heart would one day be her daughter.
Marcie's dream became a reality six months later when she stood before the judge who signed the final adoption papers. Cradling her precious daughter in her arm, streams of tears flowing down her face, Marcie signed the papers that declared Annie and Marcie each other's special only.
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