Becoming “Aunt Janin”: A Nurse and Patient's Lifelong Bond

Becoming “Aunt Janin”: A Nurse and Patient's Lifelong Bond

A NICU nurse helps save a newborn; two decades later she officiates her wedding.
ICU nurse Janin Pierce forms a special bond with a patient; 22 years later she officiates her wedding.

When the newly born conjoined twins, Faith and Rose, arrived in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children's Hospital New Orleans on a winter evening in 1999, it was clear little Rose would not make it. She lacked the internal organs to survive on her own. Faith’s small body was working hard to sustain them both, and a separation surgery would be necessary to give Faith a chance at life. As Janin Pierce grasped Faith’s tiny hand that night, she couldn’t have imagined how this encounter would change her life.

From nurse to “Aunt Janin”

Faith’s breathing tube was blocked, and a decision needed to be made quickly. Pierce and the Children’s care team decided to pull the tube and reintubate. Given Faith’s unique physiology, it was a difficult decision, but it proved to be correct.

“If you ask the family, they'll say I saved her life,” says Pierce, RN, CPN. “But I was merely a nurse among a team of people.”

Faith’s family invited Pierce to her first birthday celebration, and the bond was cemented. Pierce and Faith’s families were soon spending holidays together. Faith was the flower girl at Pierce’s wedding, while her parents served as a bridesmaid and the best man. And Pierce—she was just “Aunt Janin.”

“It cracks me up because Faith didn't know that I wasn’t really her aunt until she was about 10 years old,” Pierce says. “We’re not blood related, but we truly became a family.”

So, it wasn’t unusual when Faith asked “Aunt Janin” to officiate her wedding. It was there that their relationship came full circle. Pierce punctuated the ceremony by telling the story of how she held Faith’s hand that first night in the NICU, and now on her wedding day, Pierce was there, holding Faith’s hand.

“I brought home the idea of how incredibly lucky we are to have her here,” Pierce says. “There wasn't a dry eye in that ceremony. It gave us all goose bumps.”

Care emblematic of all nurses

While remarkable, Pierce says her story is typical of the dedication nurses bring to their job every day. “There are a bunch of us who do extraordinary things that no one ever hears about,” Pierce says. At a time when burnout and fatigue among nurses are at a high point, it’s helpful to be reminded of why they chose to devote their lives to caring for children. In that way, Pierce says a nurse doesn’t need to develop a lifelong relationship with a patient and their family to have a profound impact.

“There are so many ways we can support and love our families through the tough times they're going through,” Pierce says. “I ask families what they need and how can I help, even if it's something they think is crazy. I can get the answer and then do what I feel is right.”

Pierce trusted her instincts in her care for Faith and her family, and she’s forever thankful for having the opportunity to be such an integral part of her life.

“Faith's my girl, and if it weren’t for Children's, none of this would have happened,” she says.

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