UW News

December 17, 2013

UWMC grants wish for seriously ill teen interested in NICU nursing

UW Health Sciences/ UW Medicine

Samantha in NICU

In the UW Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Center, Samantha greets baby Scarlett. the daughter of NICU nurse Britany Sembower .McKenna Princing

Last weekend, 14-year-old Samantha spent yet another day in a hospital, but this visit was different. This time she got to be the nurse, rather than the patient.

Samantha experienced the world of a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the UW Medical Center – her dream career, said mother Mary.

Hospital stays characterize Samantha’s long-winded battle with a heart condition. She has undergone countless surgeries and recovered from two strokes that impaired her speech and motor abilities. Samantha is drawn to nursing, she said, because of all the nurses who have helped make her hospital visits easier and more comforting.

When assistant nurse manager Lori Chudnofsky heard about Samantha’s wish, she was motivated to make it reality. She and other NICU nurses prepared for a week before Samantha’s visit.

Samantha feeds baby

Samantha feeds infant Scarlett.McKenna Princing

“We really appreciate their creativity and willingness to make it work,” said Angela Geiss, regional co-director for Make-A-Wish Washington. “This was the first time I’d ever seen a child have a wish like that, and the nurses did an excellent job making Samantha feel welcomed and loved.”

On her special day, Samantha was taught how to hold and change a baby, and listen to its heart. She took a class that involved activities like journaling and play therapy designed to support siblings of an infant in the NICU.

One highlight for Samantha was bottle-feeding Scarlett, the two-month-old daughter of NICU nurse Britany Sembower. The new mother also showed Samantha how to read the baby’s vital signs on a computer.

samantha recognized at NICU

The nurses and other health professionals on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit gather to see Samantha recognized for her training in newborn care.McKenna Princing

No detail was neglected in making Samantha’s experience as realistic as possible. She received an ID badge, scrubs and a stethoscope. A welcome sign greeted her at the entrance to the unit and “RN: Samantha!” was written on the whiteboard in baby Scarlett’s temporary patient room. The nursing staff even made a potluck lunch because, as Chudnofsky said, “nurses love potlucks.”

Mary, Samantha’s aunt Margaret and little sister Juistine tagged along for the day. Their presence made the experience richer for Samantha, and echoed the hospital’s commitment to patient- and family-centered care, Chudnofsky said.

Samantha’s visit wasn’t just a dream come true; it also provided inspiration for the nursing staff.

“Of all the things Samantha could ask for, she wanted to be a nurse. For us nurses, that meant so much,” Chudnofsky said. “Every work day is just a normal day to us, but actually we’re living a wish. Samantha’s presence reminded us how important our jobs are.”

* Samantha’s last name has been withheld to protect her and her family’s privacy.

See KING 5’s coverage of Samantha’s story: http://www.king5.com/news/local/Little-girl-gets-her-wish-to-be-a-nurse-234989881.html