“That’s what stood out about Becca, how much she loved Aria”

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02/21/2024

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A CVICU patient’s mom nominated new nurse Becca Fenes for a Daisy Award in appreciation for her loving care.

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

For five months, Becca Fenes took care of little Aria Grochowsky.

Bath time was the best time, especially when Fenes would play Disney tunes, particularly anything from “The Little Mermaid,” while she gave her tiny patient a bath.

A recent nursing graduate, Fenes began her orientation at Riley Hospital for Children training with other nurses on the day shift. That’s when she first met Aria, born at Riley in May 2023 with serious heart defects.

When she completed orientation, she transitioned to nights on the CVICU and continued caring for Aria, who was born at Riley just two weeks after her parents, Ashley and Jake, learned of her devastating diagnoses.

The family chose Riley, even though they live two hours away, because of its renowned pediatric heart surgery program and because Ashley’s mom had been a Riley cancer patient when she was just 13.

“It already held a special place in our hearts,” Ashley said last week from her home in Illinois. “I knew Riley was the place we wanted to be.”

Ashley remembers how Fenes made her feel heard and respected as a mom, and how her daughter responded to the young nurse’s singing and attentive care.

That’s why she decided to nominate Fenes for a Daisy Award, recognizing her compassion, communication and clinical skills.

“Becca is an incredibly kind, thoughtful and compassionate person,” she said. “She brought a warmth every time we saw her, even if we didn’t have her as a nurse, she would stop in to say hi.”

Fenes, who grew up in northwestern Indiana, originally thought she wanted to be an anesthesiologist. But after her father was hospitalized while she was a teenager, her career goal changed.

“I was coming to be with him every day after school in between sports practices,” she said. “I never met his doctors or his surgeon, but I met the nurses, and the nurses made such an impact on him, and he was so grateful for them. That’s the impact I want to make.”

She knew she wanted to work with kids, too. And Riley was always where she wanted to be.

“Where I’m from, Riley is a huge deal. Even living so close to Lurie Children’s Hospital (in Chicago), everybody we know takes their kids to Riley,” she said. “So, I planned to come to IUPUI to be close and for the chance to get my foot in the door.”

She never expected to get a Daisy so early in her career.

“I was shocked,” she said, recalling how she was busy in a patient room getting an EKG reading while her colleagues were gathering outside in the hallway earlier this month.

“I come out and I’m on the phone with cardiology, and everybody is staring at me,” said Fenes, who looked at her manager for an explanation.

“They’re here for you,” her manager said.

“I turned around; I was blown away.”

That’s when she was presented with the Daisy certificate, healing hands sculpture, flowers and more.

As soon as it sank in what was happening, Fenes said she knew immediately that the nomination must have come from Aria’s mom.

Baby Aria passed away in early November. After multiple surgeries and procedures, she no longer had the strength to fight. The family made the decision to withdraw life support, allowing Aria to pass on her own terms.

Fenes was with her that final weekend, just like she had been in the beginning. That gives Ashley a measure of peace.

“When you’re there for 5½ months, you see a lot of nurses, and everyone’s great in their own way,” Ashley said. “But Becca paid special attention to detail with everything she did. Any questions I had, I knew I could ask Becca and she would look into it.”

Her passion for her work and her patients was obvious, Ashley said.

“That’s what stood out about Becca, how much she loved Aria and cared for her like we would.”

Fenes acknowledges that Aria’s passing prompted some soul-searching.

“It’s so hard. I had to think a lot about whether this is something I really want to do and something I can keep going through. But I think that knowing the impact I made for Ashley and her husband and for Aria makes it worth it.”

In memory of bath times with Aria, the Grochowskys keep a Little Mermaid ornament – a gift from Fenes – with their baby’s things at home.

It reminds them of some of the best times in their daughter’s life when Fenes would sing softly to their little girl.

“Aria just loved it.”

Nominate a nurse who exemplifies excellent clinical skills and compassionate care here.