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Brighter Tomorrows Story Contest 2015 Award Recipient


Katie Jo Dixon, RN
Austin, TX

Have you ever left a conversation and felt like your smile is brighter? Have you ever hugged someone and known that your day was going to be better from this moment forward? Have you ever met someone and realized that you would remember this person for the rest of your life?—these three day-lifting and life-altering interactions happen every single day in NICUs across the country.

How can someone who only weighs in at 7 pounds weigh so heavy on your mind? How can someone who only breathes for one month, breathe on in your memory forever? How can someone so small and helpless be destined to live so briefly and profoundly?

She was named after a flower. The scent of her name fills my memory every time I come across that flower outside of the NICU world. She blooms in my mind, a fresh and new flower bud, waiting to blossom at the most unexpected times. For example, shopping at the local hardware store, I stroll across the gardening supply section. Tulips, orchids, chrysanthemums—they all pale in comparison when nestled among the name-sake flower that holds the memory of who you are. My breath leaves me for an instant, and I imagine what it must have been like for those who loved you dearest, your mother and your father, to cradle you in their arms with the uncertainty of whether the next breath would arrive.

What about the moment when the next breath failed to arrive? As your mother leaned-in, close to your tiny nose and little lips, to see whether or not she could feel the warm, moist air exhaled from your nostrils. Your chest lay still, the diminishing beats of your heart barely perceptible, as the life and joy that filled your body from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes slowly withdraws from your body and wafts into the bittersweet memories of who you are.

These thoughts take over my frontal brain, as I care for this baby now: Alive, moving, breathing. The words incompatible with life ringing between my ears straight from the nurse's mouth at shift change. The idea that life starts or stops when the beating heart stops or the lungs stop exchanging oxygen places limitations on the expansiveness of life. What about the moment when the mother first imagined her baby's face along with a positive pregnancy test? What about every birthday that will be celebrated in the baby's absence? What about her flower that blooms in my mind every spring as purple and white lily blossoms parade around my neighborhood?

Knowing you, even for a brief moment in this waking life, has made my tomorrow brighter. You have made my nursing care more meaningful. The powerful message you shared: These moments that last for the space of an inhale and an exhale, are profound, impactful and powerful. Like breathing in the aroma of the nectar deep inside the heart of a flower, the smell of the essence of your little life fills all my senses for forever.