Her Life: A Unity of Time
“There are lots of things that I look back on and just think, ‘wow, it’s amazing to be here,’” said Long, 26, a nurse in the pre- and post-op care area of Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
Her inception was extraordinary, her birth was premature, and Ashley Long’s path to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health was unexpected.
“There are lots of things that I look back on and just think, ‘wow, it’s amazing to be here,’” said Long, 26, a nurse in the pre- and post-op care area of Riley.
“I was born through a sperm donor. I don’t know much about him but he was a resident at IU School of Medicine; he was of German decent, had blonde hair and green eyes, and was six-feet tall,” said Long, who has connected with a younger biological brother through the donor sibling registry. Coincidently, his parents are both doctors in another state. “I know how I got here but my parents are the ones who helped me become who I am. It’s all been a wonderful journey with lots of surprises.”
It was Valentine’s Day 1991 when Long made her grand entrance into the world – a preemie born at 26 weeks. She remained in NICU until Mother’s Day.
“My mom didn’t smoke or take drugs. She had great health but I was born with a genetic defect – a hole in my heart,” said Long. She was born during a blizzard. She credits her uncle, a police officer and paramedic for recognizing the early signs of labor. He drove Long’s mom to the hospital in his police car.
“The year before, in 1990, synthetic surfactant had just come out for premature babies. I’m thankful to science and the developments that allow premature babies to have longer and more healthy lives,” said Long. “Who knows if I would have made it if I had been born a year earlier and who knows if I’d made it if my uncle hadn’t been there to get us to the hospital.”
Surfactant therapy is used to treat premature infants at risk for developing respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). As soon as her body was strong enough, Long had surgery to repair the hole in her heart, known as a Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA). She weighed just over two pounds.
A native of Wells County, Long recovered fully and spent her youth in Bluffton. She eventually pursued her nursing degree, married and moved to Tennessee. Her husband, Austin, 25, is also a nurse and for a time they both worked in critical care at a Level I trauma hospital.
When they decided to move back to Indiana, they began looking closely at local hospitals. Long thought she’d never work at a children’s hospital out of fear of the known – her personal experience. “In some ways, I felt guilty that I turned out OK. Not everyone has a happy ending,” said Long.
“I didn’t think I’d hear back from Riley because I didn’t have experience in pediatrics, but when they called me for an interview, I cancelled every other interview. If I hadn’t gotten the job with Riley, I’d still be applying at Riley,” said Long.
“It doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like I’m giving back and in some way, I’m doing it for all the people who helped bring me into this world and helped save my life.
Every day that I wake up as nurse – particularly one at a children’s hospital - I remember what parents go through with a sick child. It’s full circle – the way I was born and where I am now. I approach it with passion, I know parents are grateful for my care and I’m just as grateful for the chance to give them the care.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.