Riley’s NICU Nudges One New Mom Toward a Rewarding New Career

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“My mom is a nurse, and I always wanted to be one too,” Shauniece Griffin says. “But after watching the nurses take care of Jamaree—and getting so much comfort from them myself—I decided I wanted to be a neonatal intensive care nurse.”

For Shauniece Griffin, Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health provided more than the support she and her newborn needed—it inspired a future career path.

Shauniece Griffin was at her aunt’s house when she first laid eyes on Daryl Bowie. It was 2014, and Griffin was 15, two years younger than Bowie at the time. “It was love at first sight,” she recalls. The two began dating. Everything was going smoothly until they got a surprise a year into their relationship: Griffin was pregnant. “I was excited, nervous—a mix of emotions,” she recalls. “I had always wanted kids, but not so soon.” While they agreed the timing wasn’t ideal, Griffin and Bowie decided they would raise their child together.

Initially, the pregnancy was uneventful. But when Griffin visited her obstetrician in September 2015 for her four-month checkup, the doctor discovered that Griffin’s cervix was dilated to one centimeter. “It meant I was on the verge of going into labor,” she says. Griffin was immediately fitted with a cervical pessary, a ring-shaped device inserted in the vagina to support the cervix and prevent preterm birth. Griffin’s pregnancy was declared high risk, and she spent the next three months on bed rest.

On December 30, 2015—seven months into her pregnancy—Griffin had her baby, a boy she named Jamaree. Unfortunately, the joyous event turned worrisome quickly. Jamaree’s lungs hadn’t fully formed, so he had to be placed on a ventilator. He had a Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA), a condition in which abnormal blood flow occurs between the two major arteries connected to the heart. Doctors told Griffin that while surgeons at the hospital didn’t operate on premature babies, they would transfer Jamaree to a place that could provide all the care he needed: the Riley Heart Center at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

Griffin was relieved, but there was a snag: she lived in Gary, a two-hour drive from Riley. “There was no way I could make that drive every day, but I wasn’t about to just leave my son in Indianapolis,” she says. Fortunately, she didn’t have to. Riley provides housing for relatives of children undergoing treatment, so Griffin was able to stay in the city and see Jamaree every day while he recovered from surgery and his lungs strengthened. Though the experience was highly emotional, Griffin says that time she spent at Riley had an unexpected benefit. “My mom is a nurse, and I always wanted to be one too,” she says. “But after watching the nurses take care of Jamaree—and getting so much comfort from them myself—I decided I wanted to be a neonatal intensive care nurse.” 

After a six-month stay in the NICU at Riley, Jamaree is finally home with his parents. Griffin and Bowie now live in Indianapolis, a move they made to be closer to Riley. While Jamaree’s health has improved, he still requires oxygen to breathe, though it hopefully won’t be necessary for much longer. As for Griffin, she’s about to start her senior year of high school—and is already excited about the opportunities college could provide. Her dream employer: Riley Hospital for Children.

-- By Jessica Brown

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