Monthly Archives: May 2013

Five Question Friday: Anna Youngerman

Meet Anna Youngerman, director of advocacy and health policy.

Describe your job as director of Children’s advocacy and health policy. As the director of advocacy and health policy, my job is to oversee our government relations, policy and community engagement work. I work with a great team — Kelly Wolfe who manages our lobbying and public policy efforts and Katie Rojas-Jahn who coordinates our community benefit work, social media efforts and participation in community/advocacy organizations. Together, we work on legislative issues that impact Children’s and children’s health at the state and federal level. We also work to understand the needs of the communities in which Children’s operates and kids across the state and develop plans for addressing those issues. Part of our work is focused on building advocacy interest within Children’s among employees, patients and families so I get the opportunity to present to and learn from medical professionals, our Family and Youth Advisory Councils and others within the organization about what matters to our Children’s community. At the end of the day, my job boils down to advancing and protecting our organization and kids’ health in the legislative arena, making sure we’re the best community partner we can be and equipping people to be effective advocates for children.

Anna Youngerman

Because of your role, you spend a lot of time at the state Legislature. What did you take away from this session? There were a lot of pre-conceived notions about what this state legislative session would yield because it was the first time in more than 20 years that the Governor’s Office, House and Senate were entirely in DFL control. For example, many in the healthcare community thought this would be the year (after more than a decade of cuts) that health and human services would see funding increases but, instead, legislators wanted to cut it again. In the end, Children’s and children’s health issues ended up doing fine, but what it showed is that the process is always unpredictable, it takes a lot of active monitoring and heavy lifting to make sure we come out OK in the end.

Your job extends beyond Children’s doors. What does that mean? Most of our work is focused on efforts outside the walls of Children’s. On the policy side of our work, we spend a lot of time with legislators and administrators to help them understand what Children’s does, why we’re unique and what we need on a legislative level to continue doing what Children’s does best. For those folks, our team is often “the face” of Children’s (for better or worse :)). We also spend time working with other organizations who have common interests, including public health leaders, health advocacy organizations and other health systems.

What drew you to Children’s? I had the opportunity to work with Children’s in my previous job and had a great feeling about the organization. I was interested in using the advocacy skills I’d developed to help drive a singular cause forward and, with Children’s, there is a strong commitment to the organizational mission of serving children. My sense of this place has absolutely been affirmed – everybody lives and breathes kids. I wasn’t a mom when I started but now that I have a little one of my own, being able to advocate on behalf of this organization is even more of a pleasure.

What is your favorite memory from working here? I don’t have one memory but rather a collection of experiences that have been powerful to me. It sounds hokey, but I often find myself in awe of this place. Walking through the cafeteria, participating in a meeting with clinicians, hearing from a doc about an issue he/she wants to address, listening to a family’s experiences, even talking about healthcare reform — in all of those encounters, I get to see and hear how amazing the kids, parents, nurses, doctors and administrators are when it comes to doing what’s right for kids.

Preventing and treating dog bites

We love our four-legged friends. But, dog bites can and do happen.

Each year, about 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs, and nearly 800,000 need medical attention, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The most common victims are children.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we tend to see an uptick in the number of dog bite cases beginning in May through September. During those months in 2012, we treated 87 kids for dog bites. Don’t let your child be a statistic this summer.

“It’s all about prevention,” said Dr. Michelle London, an Emergency Department physician.

There are some measures you can take to reduce the possibility of your child being bitten. Teach your children not to approach a strange dog, never go face to face with a dog or go near a dog when it’s eating, London said.

Dog bites can occur over food, added Erin Dobie, a certified nurse practitioner who also works in Children’s Emergency Department. Even if the dog is eating and a child drops a toy near the dish and bends down to pick it up, the dog could snap thinking that the child is going for the food. Dogs can also be provoked by kids pulling on tails or climbing on them.

If your child is bitten, here’s what to expect:

  1. Get the child away from the dog as quickly as possible.
  2. Be aware of the owner or the identity of the dog. While it shouldn’t be your top priority, it will help you determine later whether the dog is vaccinated.
  3. Control bleeding and put pressure on the wound.
  4. If skin isn’t broken, washing the wound is usually sufficient.
  5. If it appears there may be a laceration, take your child to the Emergency Department.
  6. In general, smaller puncture wounds are not sutured because of high risk of infection, but all dog bites need to be cleaned out well and prophylactic antibiotic treatment given to prevent infection whether or not they are sutured.
  7. If a dog can be observed for 10 days after a bite (when it is not to the head, face or neck) and is well, then rabies vaccinations aren’t recommended. However, parents still have the option at any time to start rabies vaccinations.
This post also appeared in the Star Tribune kids’ health section.

Shish kebabs and pilaf

Now that the unofficial start of summer has come and gone, it’s time to drag out the charcoal and light up the grill. Shish kebabs are one of my favorite things to grill, they’re easy to prepare and are perfect for feeding crowds. The key to flavorful, juicy morsels of meat is in the marinating, the longer the better. I love to serve these kebabs with a Chermoula pilaf, which has a flavor profile often seen in Moroccan or Tunisian cuisine, with cinnamon, crushed red pepper, raisins, almonds and tomatoes. — Andrew Zimmern

Shish kebabs are a fun way to get your family to try new veggies! Have your children participate by either helping kebab (if old enough) or by helping pick out which meat/veggie to put on the skewer next. Experimenting with herbs and spices is a also a great way to add flavor to your foods while at the same time reducing or eliminating added salt. Did you know? Chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans and are the key ingredient in hummus. They are great source of protein and fiber! — The clinical dietitian team at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

Photo by Madeleine Hill


Serves 6 to 8

Total Time: 1 hr 15 min, plus overnight marinating

Shish kebabs

1 pound cubed top sirloin, 1-inch cubes

1 pound cubed pork loin, ¾ inch cubes

1 red bell pepper

1 green pepper

1 large red onion

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 fresh bay leaves

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

8 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons minced parsley

Lightly toast the garlic, herbs and spices in a small pan over medium heat. When aromatic, pull from heat and grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Take spice paste and combine with the oil and lemon juice.

Divide the marinade into two Ziploc bags. Place the pork cubes into one, the beef in another and toss meats well. Squeeze air out of the bags, seal and marinate overnight.

Cut the peppers and onions into small cubes (about one-inch squares).

Skewer the meat, alternating between the beef and pork cubes, the onions and peppers.

When finished skewering, season with salt and pepper and grill over high direct heat for a total of about 10 minutes, or roughly 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Your goal is to have the beef be medium rare and the pork medium (the difference in cube size helps this process).

Serve with a yogurt sauce, seasoned with mint, lime, garlic and cumin, and rice pilaf.

Yogurt sauce

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon cumin

Mix together all ingredients in a bowl. Keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

Chermoula pilaf

1 teaspoon saffron threads revived in 3 tablespoons warm water

2 cups basmati rice

½ cup minced parsley

½ cup raisins

½ cup toasted almond slices

One 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

12 ounces canned chickpeas, drained

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup olive oil

1 minced onion

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

3 cups chicken stock

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Place the oil in a 2-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. When oil is aromatic, add the rice, raisins, almonds, red pepper, chickpeas, cinnamon and onion. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, saffron in water, parsley and lemon zest. Stir. Add the stock, bring to simmer. Cover and lower heat to lowest setting and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let rice rest covered. Stir, season and serve.


Five Question Friday: Tera Bollig

Tera Bollig

Describe your job at Children’s. I work in the marketing and communications department. My main job is to ensure that materials and information given to patients/families about Children’s services are accurate so families have a positive experience. I work with various internal departments, print vendors, photographers and designers to ensure print and online collateral is accurate and meets Children’s brand guidelines for design and writing style. My ultimate goal with all my projects is to give patients/families a consistent experience with the information they receive before they get here, while they are here and when they leave. I also work on initiatives such as wayfinding improvements, Wash ‘em Proud and events such as the Minnesota State Fair and Rock the Cradle.

What drew you to Children’s? I started at Children’s as an intern in the marketing department more than five years ago. I knew somebody who worked in the department at the time, and I applied for the position. Once I started my internship I knew I wanted to work here – and luckily a full-time position opened up.

What do you love most about working here? I love the passion that everyone has for making kids feel better. Whether it’s the patient care staff on the units or the staff behind the scenes, everyone has enthusiasm for what we do at Children’s.

Do you have a favorite memory working here and, if so, what is it? One of my favorite memories is when I was an intern and was assigned to accompany the media at the Santa visit at Children’s – St. Paul. Members of the St. Paul police department dressed like Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves and distributed presents to the kids. It was fun to see how happy and excited the kids were! I saw firsthand how special Children’s is and how much members of the community care about the kids here.

How do you spend your time outside of work? I’m usually training for a full or half-marathon, and I help coach at a local running club. I love to spend time hiking around the state parks, and I always enjoy sitting on the porch and reading on a nice summer or fall evening.



A green thumb with a healing touch

Leonard Gloeb, master gardener, has been providing horticulture therapy at Children's - St. Paul for 27 years.

After a bad experience with tonsillectomy as a child, Leonard Gloeb had an aversion to hospitals. Lucky for him – and lucky for Children’s – Leonard got over his fear. For the past 27 years, Leonard has been volunteering his time and talents as a master gardener to provide horticulture therapy to our patients and their families in St. Paul.

Horticulture therapy is the purposeful use of plants and plant-related acts to promote health and wellness for all people. Its use dates back to ancient times, and today, it is widely accepted as a beneficial and effective therapy to help build and improve cognitive, physical, psychological and social skills.

Leonard visits Children’s  twice a week to perform a variety of plant-related therapy activities with patients. The program he has helped develop, called “My Little Green Friends,” consists of 35 different activities, including planting, seed art and aromatherapy, to engage patients in the healing benefits of working with and/or enjoying plants. In the past, Leonard maintained the Children’s greenhouse and now donates plants he grows in his personal greenhouse for his activities with patients.

“The project started as a way for me to get in my volunteer hours required for the master gardener program,” says Leonard. “But it has turned into a real passion and a commitment to the children.”

With more than 15,135 volunteer hours now under his belt, Leonard is a familiar face at the St. Paul campus. He works closely with the Child Life team to schedule his visits in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and surgery playrooms, third and fourth floor inpatient units, the short stay unit and the epilepsy unit.

“Leonard brings a lot of smiles to the kids he visits,” says Tom Marsolais, child life associate. “He’s a kind and gentle man, and the kids pick up on his calming influence. The horticulture therapy he does with them is a good distraction during their time at the hospital and provides a learning experience for them to discover more about plants and nature.”

Leonard has seen his work come full circle, with some former patients now returning as parents who still have the plants he gave to them years ago. Those, and some of the stories that stand out the most, are Leonard’s “little miracles” – the examples of how horticulture therapy has improved the care or life of a child.

“One of my favorite success stories came after a planting activity with a group of children in a playroom,” Leonard recalls. “A little boy picked up his potted plant, turned to his mother and said ‘Look mom, my plant.’ It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but I found out later that those were the first words he had spoken since coming to the hospital five days before. It was a tremendous impact with little effort on my part. One time, a doctor told me that the work I was doing was more important than his,” he continues. “I thought he was crazy at the time, but after seeing events like that one, I realized that what I was doing really does make a difference.”

Throughout the years, patient families have asked Leonard if he gets paid for the work he does. “I tell them ‘I get paid more than any CEO.’ Even if I wasn’t a master gardener, I’d still be here. It’s one of the most rewarding projects there is.”



Five Question Friday: Margie Nelson

You’re an annual giving officer at Children’s. What does that job involve? My title is annual giving officer, a position on the annual fund raising team working with donors who give gifts to the hospital for the first time or every year, usually in the $1-$1,000 range. Specifically, my job is to work as a patient family representative from the Foundation. Eighty percent of gifts to hospitals come from families who have had a patient experience. I visit families while they are at Children’s and thank them for their past support, report their stories for our giving blog and stewardship reports and connect families to events and hospital programs of interest. I am helping to build a culture of generosity throughout the hospital by assisting physicians and nurses when they encounter the families who want to give back to Children’s after a powerful experience.

Margie puts a tattoo on a child at the HeartBeat 5000.

Your position allows you to develop unique relationships with families. What do you love most about getting to work with families every day? My children don’t live at home anymore, so I love the opportunity to visit with children and families of all ages and learn about their lives, their schools, how they are feeling and what they love to do when they are not at Children’s. Parents who I see in and around the hospital are genuinely surprised to be thanked in person for past donations and support to Children’s. I think they feel a powerful relationship to the hospital when they are recognized, and it feels great to be the person bringing this to them at a time of great worry and stress.

What drew you to nonprofit work and, specifically, Children’s? I have volunteered at nonprofits since college, when I was an EMT for my home town fire department. Giving back to communities and causes is a family value shared and enjoyed among generations in my family. I feel privileged to be able to build a career in a non-profit or service organization like Children’s as it is easy to put your heart and soul into the mission and work. While working in an underserved children’s non-profit educational organization, I started as a volunteer on an Integrative Medicine Task Force at Children’s and was recommended for the Foundation job a few years later. It is a perfect fit!

What do you think makes Children’s, Children’s? The big things like the people (outstanding doctors and nurses) and the beautiful buildings and then the little things like the kids and the extras; music and pet therapy, hugs, art, games, understanding (child and family services.)

What has been your favorite memory to date working here? The families who have lost children often come back to give gifts so that other families have an easier time. I have learned from them and grown into a better person in the light of their healing generosity.


Penne with asparagus-pistachio pesto

This pasta dish with asparagus-pistachio pesto is from my days as a chef at Café Un Deux Trois in the ’90s. I’ve made this recipe for hungry crowds ever since with amazing results. The smoky bacon and rich, salty pistachios are perfectly balanced by the fresh veggies and fragrant herbs. This ‘sauce’ can be used with any type of noodle, but I recommend penne, macaroni or rigatoni. — Andrew Zimmern

Photo by Madeleine Hill


1/4 cup pine nuts

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths

3 medium carrots, chopped

1 medium shallot, chopped

1/2 cup packed basil leaves

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for tossing

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 pound penne

1/4 pound sliced bacon

1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup unsalted roasted pistachios, very finely chopped

1/3 cup chopped parsley

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving


Active: 45 min
Total Time: 1 hr 15 min
Servings: 6 to 8

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and toast for about 3 minutes, until golden brown.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the asparagus with the carrots and shallot and process until finely chopped. Scrape the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Stir in the basil, garlic, honey, thyme, lemon zest, cumin and the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once, until the vegetables are soft and just starting to brown. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, 12 to 14 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta to a baking sheet and toss with olive oil.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels and finely chop it.

In a very large skillet, combine the cooked vegetables with the chicken stock and butter and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 4 minutes. Add the pasta, pine nuts, pistachios and the reserved 1/2 cup of pasta water and cook, tossing, until the sauce is thick and the pasta is coated. Stir in the parsley and chopped bacon and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to bowls and serve, passing the grated cheese at the table.

How kangaroo care came to the United States: One mom’s journey

Chris Clark was 23 weeks’ pregnant, on bed rest after her water broke, and had been given little hope of having a viable pregnancy.

A mom of three kids already and a natural protector, she wondered, if her child was born, was there something she could do to enhance his chance of survival? Bed rest gave Clark, who had a background in respiratory therapy, time to research.

She landed on an article in the magazine, Mothering, about kangaroo care in Colombia. Kangaroo care is the practice of holding your newborn baby skin to skin, which provides benefits to both the parents and the child. It helps premature babies develop. At the time – 1989 – kangaroo care wasn’t being practiced in the United States.

“I read the article through and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, they’re holding babies skin to skin and the babies are doing better,’” she said. She contacted a researcher listed in the article, shared her condition with her and asked for medical literature supporting kangaroo care. The researcher sent the information overnight – she doubted Clark had much time before delivering.

Hours after getting the literature, Clark was rushed to United Hospital where she gave birth to Danny, who arrived at just 29 weeks on May 7, 1989. He was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in St. Paul.

Danny, born on May 7, 1989

As soon as Danny was born, Clark started asking the neonatologist, Dr. Mark Mammel, if she could try kangaroo care.

“I was interested and also cautious. Maybe it’s growing up in the ’60s, but it seemed like a good idea. Parents holding babies – rocket science? No. But we all worried about the issue of temperature control, monitoring, airway obstruction, and so on,” Mammel said.

Clark persisted. “I asked every day if we could please, please try it,” she said.

Five days after giving birth on Mother’s Day, Clark held Danny for the first time. There were two crash carts and two resuscitation teams nearby – ready in case anything went wrong, she said.

“It was crazy. (Some of the staff) appeared terrified,” she said.

But the minute Clark started holding her son, terror and fear disappeared. She found only comfort and connection.

“It made me feel like his mom,” she said. “It was like I was in my own world with him.”

“Chris was very smart about the process. She initially saw the technique mentioned in a magazine…which I was familiar with as a fringe publication. It was not a great source for me to rely upon. Chris knew this!” Mammel said. “She gathered the actual medical literature – though there wasn’t much – and brought it to me and the group to review. Like all change in a NICU setting, a champion is needed to bring others along. I liked what I read – kangaroo care looked safe and probably beneficial, as well. So I became that champion, working with my partners and the nursing staff to pave the way for Chris to be the first.”

Clark holds Danny skin to skin

Initially, Clark spent about 30 minutes twice a day using kangaroo care.

Danny ultimately spent about nine weeks at Children’s. During that time, he needed nine blood transfusions, experienced numerous spells where he stopped breathing, and early on required a ventilator and 100 percent oxygen.

Prior to leaving, Danny required hernia surgery. Clark held her son for about 24 hours before the operation.  The anesthesiologist visited afterwards to tell her Danny was the “most relaxed baby” he had worked with in his years of surgery.

Danny just turned 24. He’s run a marathon, has no lung or sight problems and is a singer/songwriter, Clark said.

“I believe Danny is who he is because of kangaroo care,” she said.

Kangaroo care is now a standard practice at Children’s and beyond.

“I’m a fairly strong advocate and a fighter for what I think is best for my kids. The fact that it has helped other kids feels like this might be the purpose of my life and, It’s enough,” Clark said. “I was blessed to have enough people that believed in and supported us.”

Today marks International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day – a day we celebrate at Children’s.

“We had always seen ourselves as ‘family-friendly’ – trying kangaroo care was a way for us to really walk the walk. We became recognized around the country for this, though it was never a focus of our research efforts. Others took on that task,” Mammel said. “Today, all our families benefit from this practice, which is as routine as turning on the lights in the morning.”

Five Question Friday: Lora Koppel

How long have you worked at Children’s? I’ve been here for 25 years.

Why Children’s? I knew early on in nursing school that I was most happy in my work when kids were involved. Children’s was called Children’s Health Care at the time I applied, and it was “the place” for pediatric care. 

You work in the diagnostic center at our clinic in Minnetonka. Can you describe your job? I have been so lucky in my career. That is the beauty of the nursing profession. I have done camp nursing, home care, private duty, clinic nursing, nursing management and now have landed at Children’s–Minnetonka in the radiology department. The environment is “team focused,” and I am one of many who work with children for sedation procedures done. It is less intense than some of my other positions, which allows me time to “play with kids” at work.

It’s National Nurses Week. What do you enjoy most about your job? What I love about pediatric nursing are the 3- and 4-year olds. If you haven’t had a conversation with one lately you are missing out on life.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? It took me 50 years, but I have found my passion in nursing. I travel one to two times per year to remote areas of the world with a team of pediatric health care professionals to perform surgery on children who have no access to health care. The poor, orphaned, abandoned and forgotten children. My eyes have been opened, in a whole new way, watching the resilience of a child. I have learned that anywhere in the world you go, all parents want the same thing for their children. A chance at a better life.

Happy Nurses Week to you all!


A letter to nurse Kelli

By Emily Steffel Barbero

Today’s children are born into diverse families, both big and small. Grandparents (even great-grandparents), siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, step families, half families – the family tree can boast many branches.

But not all children are blessed with nurses for family.

On a frigid and snowy January morning, our son, Ziggy, made up his mind to arrive at just 30 weeks. He had a mess of black hair, and he was a true wriggler.  His first cry burst my heart open like a firecracker, breaking it up into a million little pieces of joy that rained all over inside me.  We posed for one brief photo opportunity and then he was promptly admitted to the Special Care Nursery. It was in the nursery that he was cared for by many fabulous nurses, including Kirsten, Martha, and Kelli. Today I want to tell you about Kelli.

Sometimes when people ask me how long we were in the nursery, I tell them Ziggy lived in the nursery for 64,800 minutes (six weeks). As Ziggy’s primary nurse, Kelli was by our side for thousands of those minutes.  On any given day I would spend 720 minutes or more by Ziggy’s isolette, watching him sleep and cry and stretch and kick and try to free himself from the IV jabbed and taped into his ankle or foot or arm. Kelli taught me how to dab Vaseline on his lips when they cracked and position his head so his airway was clear. She patiently taught me how to pick him up when he had more cords attached to him than Clark Griswold plugged into his home at Christmas time. She made me smarter, making sure I understood all of his procedures, even checking up terms with me online. Every inch of his skin, literally, was touched for and cared by so preciously by a woman who had otherwise been a complete stranger to us.

After about 20,000 minutes, I began to notice how his eyes would seek out her voice when she entered his room. I would watch how he’d snuggle into the nook of her shoulder when she burped him, or smack his lips against her gloved knuckle when he was hungry.  When she talked with him, her voice was tender and sweet, with the tone of a healer and a mother and a cohort. She sat watch over his isolette, she fed him, she held him as he literally grew in her hands over time. Many mothers might be jealous of a relationship like this, and I would understand it. But I never was. I considered it an unbelievable honor that this woman was in my son’s life.

Toward the end of his stay, Ziggy surprised everyone by suddenly falling ill with a serious gastrointestinal illness with a high mortality rate. By that time, so many minutes had passed that Kelli knew Ziggy inside and out.  She was able to spot the symptoms when they were still minor, and, because of her attentiveness, an x-ray was given, treatment was started, and my son’s life was probably saved. It was an incredibly emotional time for me. One morning I collapsed into a chair by his isolette, completely beside myself with worry and sadness (and lack of sleep and physical energy). I just wanted someone to tell me when he was going to get better.  It was all I wanted that day, it was all I wanted for so many of those minutes we lived through. I just wanted someone at the hospital, anyone, to tell me he was going to get better.

Kelli didn’t do that.

Instead, Kelli hugged me that day, picked me up enough to keep moving forward.  She entertained me with conversations about reality television.  We looked at photos from blogs about Wal-Mart shoppers and discussed recipes for the CrockPot. We swapped movie recommendations, urging us to stop at a Redbox and watch a movie she and her husband loved (it actually turned out to be half decent).  She gave me fashion advice and we talked how I might recover from bang regret with my new haircut. She talked me through those 900 minutes, and the next 720 minutes after that, and the next 720 minutes after that. All while we checked his temperature dutifully, changed his diapers, monitored his central line, snuggled him through his hunger pains. But she never once told me he was going to get better.

She told me I was going to get stronger.

You know what? I’m proud to say I did. And my husband did. And my son did, too.

After all those minutes together, I realized I didn’t need false promises from anyone that my son was going to get better. Because the little boy who could turn my heart into a firecracker had more strength in his 3-pound body than a 300-pound lion. That was all that mattered.  No need to worry about future minutes when time is so precious right now. None of those minutes in the nursery ever got easier from one day to the next. But each day, with Kelli, we got a little more light-hearted, a little wiser, a little stronger.

You can’t just call Kelli a nurse.  Kelli is family.