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Sitting On The 'Other Side' — When A Nurse Becomes A Concerned Family Member



In early 2010, I received a phone call from my pregnant sister asking me “what’s ECMO?” My heart dropped and I knew that something was wrong. I listened to her explain to me what the physicians had told her... something about the baby’s diaphragm... her lungs might not work right... she will need surgery. My unborn niece had Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). All I could think about was the many critically ill newborns I had transported over the years. I always had empathy for these families. I knew how awful their worry must be. Now, it was our reality... we were the family.

My sister was referred to the amazing staff at the Texas Children’s Fetal Center for evaluation and management. It was such an education in perspective to be sitting on the other side. The worry was overwhelming. I knew too much. deborah-ybarra-and-neice2When my beautiful niece Eliana was born, I was devastated to see her in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The wires and tubes were so “normal” to me before but looked so menacing and out of place on our small sweet baby girl. I tried to be strong for my sister and family throughout the entire process, but on the day that Dr. Darrell Cass, a fetal surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, and his team took her to the operating room, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Despite my tears, I knew that she was in the most excellent hands and had the best opportunity for a good outcome. Eliana celebrated her second birthday this year and is healthy, active, happy, and VERY opinionated! Thanks to the expert hands that cared for her, she has done extremely well and has no limitations. We thank God every day for the miracle of Eliana and are eternally grateful to Dr. Cass and his team. We are most blessed to have been in an institution where the best of the best is a normal occurrence. In January, I transferred from the transport team to the Fetal Center as a Clinical Nurse Coordinator. I have the opportunity to work directly with expectant mothers and specifically those whose babies are diagnosed with CDH. It is amazing to be part of this dynamic team! I am a nurse here at Texas Children’s Hospital but more importantly; I am Eliana’s aunt. I always practiced knowing that what we do here is more than just a job — it is about the patients and their families. We have the opportunity to impact lives forever. Thank you Texas Children’s Fetal Center for the impact you have made in ours!

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Pavilion for Women