Jody Schaaf, NICU Nurse
Prentice Women’s Hospital
Minutes after our first child, Jonah, was delivered, he was whisked away by a team of doctors and nurses. We were told that he may have suffered hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (lack of oxygen to the brain) and would need to undergo a cooling process for 48 hours before we could find out more–and even then it would take months or years before the full effects would be known. Any NICU stay is difficult and stressful, but we were completely blindsided by the news; we felt that our world had changed in an instant. Jody was our primary nurse from Day 1, and it is hard to capture in words what she meant to our family.
She not only taught us how to parent in the NICU but helped guide us through the most difficult three weeks of our lives. After we got the initial MRI results–confirming the brain injury–Jody stayed in the consultation room, deciphering the news and explaining why she still had hope for our son, though we were utterly overcome with grief. Each day, she helped us understand and contextualize what we were hearing from the doctors.
More importantly, she taught us to see Jonah for the amazing baby he is. Her refrain–”never a doubt”–sustained us throughout our stay and beyond. Despite several more unexpected hurdles since leaving the NICU, Jonah is doing wonderfully and continues to amaze and delight us. Every day the unreality of the NICU fades a little bit more, but we remain as grateful as ever to Jody for helping us find our way back home. This award would confirm what we already know: that she is an exemplary caregiver in the truest sense of the word.
– Erica Stern
Although I’ve not seen Jody in action at work, I have heard and seen testimonials through social media on what a caring and dedicated professional she is in the NICU. This comes as no surprise to me, as she is the mother of two of my beautiful granddaughters. I could not have asked for a more nurturing and loving person to be part of my life. It is my privilege to be part of her family.
– Fran Schaaf
My family was lucky enough to first meet Jody Schaaf on a Saturday morning in a Labor and Delivery room as I was throwing up in a bucket from the effects of medication. My water had broken less than 24 hours prior while I was 26 weeks and 6 days pregnant. My entire short stay to that point had been a blur of shock, questions, and rotation of L & D nurses. From the moment Jody walked in she exuded intelligence, a warm smile, and an immense comfort. While always maintaining professionalism, Jody made me feel like I had a dear friend by my side.
Finally, the decision was made that it was time for me to deliver via emergency c-section. I was only 27 weeks pregnant, I had never imagined any of this occurring so soon without any preparation or knowledge of what was happening to my baby boys or my body. I will forever remember sitting completely naked on the edge of the hospital bed under the glaring lights of the OR while an unknown doctor inserted a needle into my back, Jody lovingly placed her hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and said “It is going to be okay.” In the single scariest moment of my life, this woman who I had met only 2 hours previously was a rock of strength during an incredibly fearful time. Jody embodied excellent, skilled care that was simultaneously compassionate and empathetic. I spent the remainder of the day and night in a cloud of nausea and post surgery drugs.
In a serendipitous turn of events, as my husband wheeled me into see my 2lb baby boys on Sunday morning, Jody sat at the bedsides of my two sons as their NICU nurse. She gave me that same warm smile she had the previous day and I felt a flood of comfort wash over me. On that first day, Jody honestly and gently explained the long road ahead that my 27 week twins had in front of them. She laid out a typical course for babies born at a similar gestational stage and while she made no promises or guarantees, I left that initial conversation feeling more hopeful than I had since our journey of preterm labor began less than 48 hours prior.
Jody became one of the boys primary nurses and I cherished the days she took care of them. During her experienced, skilled care of my tiny baby boys she also took care of our entire family. Prentice hosts a plethora of excellent nurses who take outstanding care of babies in the NICU . While in Jody’s care my boys received high quality, loving, and excellent care. But what I learned in our near 3 month stay is that what sets Jody apart is how she cares for the entire family. Jody has a rare mix of skill, gentle honesty, and empathy for not only her patients but the whole family .
– Laura Dias