She Knows A Nurse’s Heart

May 09, 2017

When she got the frantic call that her youngest daughter’s unborn child was in distress, Melanie Estrada did what any mother would do. She panicked. All she heard was that her daughter was at the hospital receiving injections to strengthen the baby’s lungs, and the baby was probably going to be delivered three months early.

Estrada was working in the pulmonary unit of IU Health Methodist Hospital– an hour away from her daughter.

“My supervisor overheard the phone call and immediately put me in touch with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse at Methodist who talked me through the process and helped me understand what was happening,” recalls Estrada, a 13-year employee of IU Health.

“The baby’s heart rate continued to drop and my heart dropped to my throat,” said Estrada. It was her fourth grandchild and she knew she needed to be by her daughter’s side.

Admitted to IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette, Tiarra Littlejohn was preparing to deliver her first baby.

“I headed out with tears in my eyes. I drove through construction in the dark. All I knew was I needed to get there,” said Estrada, who remembers her frantic drive to Lafayette. As she walked through the door in her IU Health uniform a greeter immediately directed her to the emergency room where an administrator handed her tissues to dry her eyes and directed her to the baby unit.

“From the time I walked through that door until my daughter and grandson were released, I couldn’t say enough about the kindness of the nurses and staff,” said Estrada.

Her grandson, Tryone, entered the world weighing just 3 pounds. His father’s wedding band could fit on his tiny wrist. Estrada visited her daughter and grandson every day. When her daughter was too weak to hold the newborn on “Kangaroo Day” a nurse suggested Estrada cuddle the baby for the skin-to-skin contact session.

It was during that moment, while she draped her grandson in a blanket that she had an idea. Estrada wanted to give something back to the hospital and the nurses who cared for her grandson.

With the help of another IU Health employee, Tina Hobbs, Estrada began making blankets for the infants in NICU. She started with 10. She also began making trips to NICU to deliver food and drinks to the nurses who care for the newborns.

Tyrone began to thrive. He was weaned of oxygen after two days and has since been treated at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health twice – once for a heart murmur and once for high blood pressure. Otherwise, he is what Estrada calls: “The picture of health.” He weighs 26 pounds and his grandma has affectionately nicknamed him, “Tink.”

She continues to send Tyrone’s nurses treats and pictures of her growing year-old grandson. And she continues to make blankets for newborns – even making special ones for some of the nurses.

“I work with nurses. I know how much they give in their jobs,” said Estrada. “My grandson may not be here if it wasn’t for the excellent nursing care he received.”

-T.J. Banes

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