Sue DiSilvestro, NICU Nurse
Northwestern Prentice Women’s Hospital
Nominated by Eric and Angela McGee
She was the perfect nurse for our family and for our Wyatt.
by Eric and Angela McGee
Our son, Wyatt, was born on a Saturday evening—April 12, 2014, at 27 weeks and just over 2 pounds, needing the jet ventilator, with nitric oxide, just to keep him alive. As things worked out, we could not have asked for a better day for Wyatt to have been born, because there was the nurse who was about to go on spring break with her family, but first, she had to work 3 days in a row. I don’t know how she got assigned to 1086 and Wyatt, but I know our son is alive today because Sue DiSilvestro took on our son that Sunday morning. Wyatt’s first three day shifts were nothing short of exhausting—for everyone, especially his Nurse Sue. As his stats, blood pressure, and every measurable vital sign bounced all over the place, up and down, two scared parents watched as she cared for Wyatt, gave precise reports to the doctors and equally as important, she began easing us into what life in the NICU may be like. She did small things, like let us take pictures of Wyatt and our wedding bands. As one doctor confided in me that they were running out of things to do for Wyatt, Sue never gave up, and her energy and enthusiasm was contagious as it helped to lift our spirits as we began to understand that even though he was hanging on, every minute was precarious.
After what was surely one of the most exhausting 3 days on of her career, we gave her a big hug, as we were not sure if we’d see her again, although none of us wanted to say or think that. When Sue came back from her family’s vacation, Wyatt was still with us! We really did not know what route our journey with Wyatt would entail, but we knew he would essentially have to grow new lungs and overcome pulmonary hypertension. Over the 257 days of our “extended stay” in the NICU, Sue became our family, since we had none in Chicago. As much as she clinically cared for Wyatt, she cared for our family’s well-being, kept his development at the forefront of his care plan, while making our daily trips to the NICU enjoyable. She could make Wyatt smile and laugh, and in doing so helped us to see all the typical things he could do. She was the perfect nurse for our family and for our Wyatt.
19 weeks into my second pregnancy, I had a partial placental abruption and little to no amniotic fluid. Without amniotic fluid to develop his lungs, my second child would not survive birth. We were advised to terminate the pregnancy by two doctors. A third doctor told us that he had seen babies survive with such low amounts of fluid. From his vague statement, we had a tiny seed of hope. At the same time, we were realistic, which was not hard to do when we were reminded weekly that he would die soon after birth. For 8 weeks on bedrest, I lived in this world of uncertainty—dreaming and hoping versus steeling myself for the more realistic outcome. On April 12, 2014, my Wyatt was born in a crash C-section in the evening. After post op, I got to meet him for the first time and he was so beautiful and so tiny with so many machines and sounds beeping. Then, on April 13, 2014, I met Nurse Sue when I went to be with Wyatt, wanting to spend as much time with him as possible, knowing it was touch and go. She was his nurse on the day shift for his first 3 days of life. Three days is not long but those days for me felt long because I learned so much—about Wyatt, about NICUs.
Sue later told me that she was constantly checking his stats, recording them, notifying doctors on developments; she hardly had time to each lunch in her 12 hour shift because she was so busy caring for my tiny two pound baby. Charting so diligently in those crucial first days, she learned his limits, his needs, and fell in love with his spirit. She had no qualms debating with the doctors on a course of action or speaking up if she felt they needed to know a Wyatt-specific detail. Asserting herself when it came to Wyatt’s care didn’t stop after those 3 days. It lasted for the full 257 days while Wyatt was in the hospital. She cared for him in so many ways.
Once he could have baths, she gave him one every time she worked for six weeks straight, even though the mess and wet floors caused extra work. Sue was one of 5 amazing Primary nurses that Wyatt had; she was the glue of this lifesaving team. She was his biggest cheerleader in the NICU; he had many fans because she talked about him so much. She helped us include our oldest son in the NICU experience, making sure he came to visit and know his little brother. By listening to us talk about our experiences, she helped my husband and I heal from the tumultuous months before and after Wyatt’s birth. She was the first person to really get me to belly laugh in 2.5 months; that listening, that laughter and seeing my two boys play and hug are the gifts she gave me that I can never repay.