NICU parents recognize nurse for care and compassion

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12/14/2023

Buedel Brookland Riley 01 1206 md

Brooklynn Buedel helped care for micro preemie twins for seven months, forming a trusting bond with the girls’ parents.

By Maureen Gilmer, Riley Children’s Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Twins Aria and Rylee Sanders spent their first seven months of life in the hospital, but today they are home, keeping their parents on their toes.

For Anthony and Emilee Sanders of Anderson, it’s a full-time, round-the-clock job taking care of their fragile girls, but it’s the best job in the world.

And they are forever grateful to the team at Riley Hospital for Children, and one nurse in particular, for making their long, hard road a little easier.

Emilee nominated NICU nurse Brooklynn Buedel for a DAISY award for nursing excellence, in recognition of the care and compassion she showed the twins and their parents while the babies struggled to grow after being born several months prematurely in January.

Buedel received the award in a surprise celebration with her unit last week.

“February was a very scary month for us,” Emilee said, due to complications with Aria. “Brooklynn handled everything with grace and just always had this calming manner … which helped my anxiety a ton.”

Brooklynn was pretty crafty too, Emilee said, going the extra mile to make art out of tiny footprints and decorating the twins’ rooms. And she was there for the milestone days.

“My girls were on the ventilator for over three months, so when we heard they were finally getting extubated we were all super excited, including Brooklynn.”

Even though Buedel wasn’t supposed to work that day, she switched her schedule so she didn’t miss this big day for the girls.

A NICU nurse at Riley for about two years, Buedel said receiving her first DAISY award means a great deal to her.

“When you’re with your families for seven, almost eight months, you really do build a special bond, so it’s nice to feel appreciated,” she said.

Parents of micro preemies lose the normal pregnancy experience, she said, so she and the other Riley NICU nurses create special crafts and recognize milestones so mom and dad can see how their babies are growing, even if it’s in a hospital.

“Sometimes something as simple as putting a cute outfit on the girls for the day means a lot,” Buedel said. “I like to think we represent that caring and compassion while parents are going through this hard time.”

That’s definitely how Emilee and her husband see it.

“For my birthday, she even made me a card from my girls and it brought me to tears,” Emilee said. “I wanted nothing more than for my girls to be home with me, but I knew they would be joining us soon. She made our NICU stay a little bit easier, and we are so thankful for her.”

Aria and Rylee, who each came into the world weighing 1 pound and change, are now at a healthy weight, but both have chronic lung disease and see the pulmonary team at Riley. Aria also has a G-tube and sees neurology because she suffered a brain bleed at birth.

Christmas will be a small family affair due to the risk of respiratory illnesses, Emilee said.

“We don’t really take the girls out except to the doctor, and we make everyone wear a mask if they’re in close contact. We are terrified of them getting RSV. Aria got a cold before she left the hospital, and that was scary just to see how the common cold affected her.”

Looking back, Emilee said, she appreciates the perspective that time offers.

“I feel like in the moment everything was just so hard, but now it’s like our hard is different. It helps to have a partner who is in it with you and to have the support of a big family.”

Having nurses like Buedel and a nurse practitioner like Kathy Green in the NICU made all the difference too, she said.

“I could always talk to Kathy, no matter how busy she seemed running those hallways, it felt like I could ask her anything. She has a connection with parents, and she is passionate about what she does,” she said.

“Those babies are her babies.”