One day back in 2004, Jeannie Whalen Joseph, a neonatal pediatric nurse, was working a shift at the hospital when a distressed young boy came in. He was frantic, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and carrying a shoe box.
Hospital staff was shocked to discover a premature baby inside the shoe box. The baby was wrapped in a towel.
After they immediately took the preemie to be tended to, medical staff learned that the young boy was the baby’s father. He and the mother of the child were young and scared. Jeannie had kind words for them and gave them parental bracelets in case they decided to return and visit the baby. Safe Haven laws allow for newborns to be left at permitted locations, for the sake of safety of unwanted newborn babies.
The infant spent nearly a month in the hospital being treated for meningitis and jaundice. Jeannie came by one day and discovered the child’s mother near the nursery, clearly upset. Jeannie reassured the girl. “You know that you saved his life, right? I don’t want you to hang your head. You gave him the best chance you could,” she said.
Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune
Because of Jeannie’s encouragement and caring attitude toward the parents, they returned, even bringing bottles of breast milk for the baby. The child’s mother was only 15 years old when she gave birth. It is easy to understand how she could have been terrified. Today that young mother, Cherish Coates, is a college graduate who dreams of going to law school. Her premature son, now 12 years old, is healthy, athletic and a member of the Navy Sea Cadet Program!
Cherish reflected on the help of Jeannie and the other nurses who were encouraging and nonjudgmental through that tough time. Cherish reached out to Jeannie recently on Facebook to thank her and send her an update on her son. Cherish said, “Jeannie, you are one of the most humble people I have ever met! You were/are such an amazing nurse and I am so thankful to have met you!”
Jeannie was brought to tears and to this day maintains that she was just doing her job.
Said Jeannie of the situation, “It just makes me think, ‘Wow,’ every interaction you have with anybody is so important. To be able to be in this position where I’m a part of someone’s story – that’s such an honor.”