June 24, 2021 by John Fernandez
A Mother’s Heartfelt Thank You to Her Baby’s Neonatal Team at South Miami Hospital (Video)
Two hundred and sixty-one days. That’s how much time Lori Livingston stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at South Miami Hospital after being born at 24 weeks gestation. The long journey became even more difficult when the preemie needed to have a tracheostomy to help her breathe.
Eight months later, the baby was discharged to finish her treatment at home. Her grateful mom, Shakeema Smiley, wrote an emotional letter (full text below) to South Miami Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), expressing her deeply felt gratitude to the team that took care of Lori.
Ms. Smiley would also like to thank Lori’s team of doctors and respiratory therapists.
Ms. Michelle Bernardo, Lori’s primary nurse, said that taking care of Lori made her a stronger professional and that she wouldn’t change all the stress, the late nights and the tears for the world. “I still miss her every day I come to work,” says Ms. Bernardo. “I am so proud of her family and the time they took and how scared they were … They got Lori home and she’s thriving at home.”
The nurse said she appreciates how Ms. Smiley feels for her. “I am grateful that I got to take care of her and meet this family. So, we’re family for life.”
(Watch Now: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Shakeema Smiley, as she reads from a letter she wrote to South Miami Hospital’s Neonatal Services team of caregivers that looked after her daughter, Lori Livingston, during the preemie’s 261-day stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Video by Alcyene Almeida Rodrigues )
Here is the letter by Shakeema Smiley:
I am a proud preemie mom who has received care for my daughter by South Miami Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. My daughter Lori Livingston was transferred to South Miami Hospital from another hospital after she became very chronic. She was born at 24 weeks. My family and I were very scared. We were not sure if she was strong enough to make it. We had no idea how long our journey will be in the NICU. We didn’t know that the NICU will become our home away from home. We also had no idea of how much we will so desperately depend on the nurses and doctors to save our daughter’s life. The staff became family to us.
Lori spent 261 days in the NICU. The journey was long and hard, but she had a very special primary nurse that refused to give up on her. She was in the fight with Lori. She celebrated when things were going great and she cried when Lori had her bad days. She wanted Lori to win so badly. However, Lori’s lungs were still very chronic months after her birth and we were told in December 2019 that Lori will need a tracheostomy. As a parent, I was devastated. I could not imagine how life will change for my family with a disabled child. Lori’s nurse was afraid too. She hadn’t worked with children with traches and did not know what the future held for Lori after the tracheostomy. Lori’s primary nurse did not get discouraged. She took the time to educate herself about children with tracheostomies and learned more skills through training with her colleagues.
Due to her brave spirit, she helped me so much as a mother. I learned to appreciate how much better Lori will be able to breathe with the trach. Besides myself, Lori’s primary nurse was her biggest advocate and I will never forget her for that. You may ask, who is this nurse? Lori’s primary nurse was Michelle Bernado. She is so awesome, and my family and I will forever be grateful for her hard work and dedication to our child. I don’t know what this journey would have been like without a nurse like her because it is very rare that someone will come along and willingly primary the most chronic kid in the NICU but she did. She chose Lori during her worst days and I can’t say thank you enough.
Michelle is a very special nurse to Lori but I would be remiss if I did not mention a few other special nurses that has helped Lori as well. Lori was blessed to have a mini dream team. Which consisted of Alyssa, Ellen, Mary Lou, Meagan, and Alexa. We will like you to know how much we appreciate these women and their work. Please acknowledge their exceptional work on my family’s behalf because they are truly a great representation of what people should know and see when they come to the South Miami Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. We love you all and we wish all your staff the best.
Thank you so very much, Shakeema Smiley.