Teen gets birthday surprise in the hospital

Patient Stories |



Cystic fibrosis kept her from celebrating her 18th birthday at home, but family, friends and nurses pulled together to host a midnight party.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Imagine spending your 18th birthday in the hospital. Amy Gaytan can tell you it doesn’t feel great – unless you have friends, family and nurses like she does.

Admitted March 15 to Riley Hospital for Children for a “tune-up” to treat cystic fibrosis, Amy hoped she might be discharged by March 30, her birthday, but it wasn’t to be.

When her family and friends realized she would still be inpatient last week, they rallied to surprise her with a party on the pulmonary unit just after midnight Thursday.

Amy might have wondered if something was up when a few nurses took her on a walk around the unit late at night, but she never dreamed she would come back to her room and see friends and family members waiting to celebrate with her.

“I was really, really happy,” she said Monday, as she and her mom, Jacqueline Rodriguez, waited hopefully to be discharged.

“We hadn’t really planned anything, so I wasn’t expecting much. It was a bummer to have to be in the hospital on my birthday,” Amy said, “but at the end of the day, my health is more important.”

Nurse Erica Branam wasn’t part of the party planning, but she got permission from Amy’s mom to snap a few photos, wanting to capture the joy of the night.

She was, she said, “merely an observer to the goodness.”

After the initial surprise, Amy asked the nurses to come in and take a picture with her “so she could tell them how much they have inspired her to want to come back and work at Riley someday.”

Amy has been coming to Riley for treatment of CF since she was a baby, but it hasn’t slowed her down. The Crispus Attucks High School junior is taking college courses while in high school as part of the Health Sciences Academy.

Her sights are set on nursing, she said.

“Riley is my dream job. It has been forever. All of these nurses who take care of me, I am inspired to be like them.”

Amy, who said she can’t wait to get home and hug her two younger siblings, is set to take her certified nursing assistant exam this month and hopes to have a chance to work part time at the hospital while continuing her studies toward a nursing degree.

“I am motivated to work here and help other kids like me.”

It’s moments like these that fill Branam’s heart.

“It reminds us all why we’re here.”

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org