Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Announcing the 2015 NICU Heroes Award Finalists – Part 1

NICU Heroes Award 2015The outstanding care neonatal professionals give to NICU families is recognized and applauded each year during the NICU Heroes Awards, presented by Mead Johnson Nutrition and Hand to Hold. This year, families from 21 U.S. states nominated neonatal nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals who helped make a difference for their preterm or medically fragile newborns.

The 2015 NICU Heroes Finalists include:

  • Shay Miller, RN, BSN, neonatal nurse at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile, Alabama;
  • Heather Laubmeier, RN, BSN, neonatal nurse at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, Arizona;
  • Joann Thorpe, RNC, neonatal nurse at Dignity Health Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California.
  • Meredithe Mullen, BSN, RNC, neonatal nurse at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa;
  • Cindy Enke, BSN, RNC, neonatal nurse at St. David’s Women’s Center of Texas in Austin, Texas; and
  • Aryan Azimi-Zonooz, MD, a neonatologist from St. Charles Bend Hospital in Bend, Oregon.

Shay Miller

Shay Miller

Shay Miller

Today we’ll meet three of our six finalists. Finalist Shay Miller, RN, BSN, works as a neonatal nurse at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile, Alabama. She’s spent 18 years working in the NICU and believes NICU nursing is unique because many preemies stay for extended periods of time, allowing nurses to get really close to the families. She shares, “I have seen so many changes throughout the years in how we care for preemies, including the introduction of new medicines, increasing the age of viability, and new developmental techniques. I love taking care of these precious gifts of life. It has made me grow as a person. There is nothing better than being a NICU nurse!”

Shay was nominated as a NICU Hero by Kayla Granger for her outstanding care of her son, Leo, who was born at 23 weeks, weighing 1 lb. 7 oz. The family lived one-and-a-half hours away from the hospital, and because of the reassuring care she gave the family, they began to view Shay as a family member. “She shows every baby and family the utmost respect and care and makes a terrifying time not seem so scary. Shay changed my life and I believe because of her, my son is alive, and a healthy 15 month old. We will NEVER forget her,” said Kayla.

Heather Laubmeier

Heather Laubmeier holding a NICU baby

Heather Laubmeier

Heather Laubmeier, RN, BSN, is a neonatal nurse at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, Arizona and a 2015 NICU Heroes Finalist. For the past 20 years she has taught parents to care for their tiny preemie baby, while also caring for themselves during the worst time of their lives. Together, they work as a team to ensure their little “peanut” succeeds and becomes the best he or she can be. “Being a NICU nurse is not a job – it is an HONOR.”

Heather was nominated by Heather Hagensieker, who after raising three healthy children well into their teens and young adulthood, had baby Mykael. Born nearly three months early at 2 lbs. 11 oz., Mykael was small and frail. Heather calmed the family with confidence, knowledge and patience, always compassionately explaining difficult medical terms and giving them comfort, while not shadowing the family from the true, possible outcomes. “Heather made what was a dreadful experience into something we reflect on as a time of increased faith, strength, and belief in the kindness of others,” said Heather.

Joann Thorpe

Joann Thorpe

Joann Thorpe

The third NICU Heroes finalist is Joann Thorpe, RNC, neonatal nurse at Dignity Health Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California. She’s worked in the NICU for 26 years, but her NICU experience started 30 years ago when her own daughter was born and admitted to the NICU. She knows first-hand that fear can turn into joy when a baby becomes healthy enough to be discharged from the NICU. This life experience led her to become a NICU nurse who is now helping others.

When Chelsea Arledge went into labor at 23 weeks and 2 days, Joann held Chelsea’s hand, promising her that they would do everything they could to save her tiny baby. Travis was 1 lb. 3.5 oz. when he was born, and spent the first eight days of his life under Joann’s care. He was a very sick baby and Joann let them know that their unexpected NICU journey would be one of the hardest they would ever experience, and they needed to love and support one another through it. She told them to stay strong and united as a team. “That day was one of the most traumatic of our 142 long NICU days. Joann stayed past when she was supposed to go home. Her dedication was unwavering.”

All of our NICU Heroes approach their calling with passion and compassion, and we sincerely share our congratulations with Shay, Heather, and Joann Thorpe, as well as the other three 2015 NICU Heroes Finalists!

Be on the lookout for our next blog post coming tomorrow featuring the stories of our other three finalists: Meredithe Mullen, BSN, RNC; Cindy Enke, BSN, RNC; and Aryan Azimi-Zonooz, MD. We will announce the winners of the 2015 NICU Heroes contest on August 3, 2015.

Amy Carr About Amy Carr

Amy Carr (TX) is a parent of a late-term preemie, Ella, born at 35 weeks. After an uneventful pregnancy, Ella's early birth and the complications that followed were a shock. Now in elementary school, her daughter is doing well and Amy enjoys using her writing, marketing and communications acumen on behalf of nonprofits and charitable causes. Formerly a founding staff member at Hand to Hold, you can reach Amy via email.

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