Erin Nickels, NICU Nurse
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Nominated by Becky Rupnick
Agatha Mae Rupnick was born April 19, 2016 at Prentice Women’s Hospital and was immediately transferred to the NICU at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital due to her Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele, hydrocephalus, and Chiari Malformation II. Agatha remained in the hospital for the first 27 days of her life.
Thinking back to our time in the NICU, tears saturate my eyes as I remember the challenges, hardships, and tribulations we faced, conquered, and overcame. I also recall our NICU family, especially Erin Nickels, who became our most trusted support system and advocate for our dear, Agatha. Erin personifies exactly what an exemplar nurse is. She truly surpassed any and all of our expectations.
Our hospital stay was quite the rollercoaster ride as we encountered many situations and diagnoses that we were not prepared for. While in the hospital, Agatha underwent four surgeries including an emergency bedside surgery. We also found out that Agatha had a heart condition. Through each of these complications, Erin sat with my family and I as we were overcome with tears, anxiety, and heartache. Erin became a friend and a symbol of solace. She held my hand and provided me with strength, comfort, reassurance, and support as she explained the medical jargon to me so that I could understand. Erin also told me of other patients with Spina Bifida who surpassed everyone’s expectations.
Erin took the time to get to know my family and I while providing the utmost care for Agatha. She stayed by Agatha’s side through each needle prick, test, and surgical recovery; caring for her with love and compassion. She ensured Agatha had the softest and warmest blankets, toys, and music to keep her calm. As a new first time mom, Erin stayed with me in the middle of the night as I learned to feed and change Agatha. Our contact with Agatha was limited as we were not able to hold her for the first eight days of her life. Erin fought for us to be able to hold Agatha. I still can picture Erin cutting apart and modifying a foam pad called an egg crate that was able to be placed underneath Agatha. This egg crate allowed for us to hold our baby girl for the first time. Erin’s perseverance and creativity allowed for my husband and I to be able hold our little miracle much sooner than the doctors had planned for.
One night in the NICU, Erin’s other patient experienced a code blue. I remember Erin running out of our room to save her other patient, while alarms sounded and lights flashed. The halls were filled with doctors and nurses running to help Erin. She was able to save the life of her other patient who was a few rooms down from us and all the while remaining calm and ensuring Agatha and I were safe and comfortable. Overall, Erin Nickels is a remarkable nurse who is truly deserving of this award as she cares for all of her patients with love, compassion, and devotion.