Nurse Helps Rescue 3-Lb Baby Brought to Hospital in Shoebox. Reunite 12 Years Later

October 28, 2017
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Jeannie Joseph is a neonatal nurse at SwedishAmerican. In 2004, she had already been in her profession for a decade, and she still works at the hospital today.

Nurse Helps Rescue 3-Lb Baby Brought to Hospital in Shoebox. Reunite 12 Years Later

After hiking nearly 8 miles through city streets, a young boy carrying a shoebox entered the hospital. In a hooded sweatshirt and appearing terrified, he walked towards the nursery.

Joseph spotted the boy and noticed how young he was. When the medical staff saw what was inside of the shoe box, wrapped in a dish towel and clothed in a onesie from a doll, they immediately took the 6-week-premature infant into isolation.

Joseph told the boy it would be helpful if he could provide information on the circumstances of the birth, as well as anything relating to the birth mother, also making sure he knew he did not have to give names. “We were sad, of course, but we had to work very fast with this baby,” she said.

The baby was in critical condition with a body temperature of only 94.7, and Dr. Martin Anyebuno, who treated the baby the day he arrived, said he was surprised to find the infant breathing on his own. The doctor treated the infant for hypothermia, dehydration, and because the mother had used a pair of house scissors to cut the umbilical cord, an infection.

The Safe Haven law was enacted in 2001. The law allows for newborn babies, provided they are unharmed, to be abandoned at any location allowed by law.

The person abandoning the infant, usually the parents, cannot be prosecuted. Safe Havens consist of hospitals, firehouses, and police stations.

The SwedishAmerican hospital in Rockford, Illinois, did not experience the first abandoned infant at their facility until 2004. According to Dawn Geras, the executive director of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, since the passage of the law, 120 babies in the state of Illinois have been placed for adoption under its guidelines.

Joseph then told the baby’s father, who had hung around crying for three hours until he made certain the infant was stable, that if he relinquished his rights under the law, right then and there, he could no longer receive updates concerning the child’s health. She also told him he did not need to make his mind up right away, as she handed him a pair of parental bracelets so he and the mother could visit if they chose to.

Cherish Coates, 15 years old and the baby’s mother, after using her grandfather’s scissors to cut the umbilical cord and tying it off with a shoestring, had given birth in her bedroom. She lived with her grandparents and because she had never gotten very big during her pregnancy, she had been able to hide it.

Joseph first met Coates when she saw her walking toward the nursery with her head hung low. Feeling compassion for the girl, she placed a hand on her shoulder and said, “I’m taking care of this cute little guy.”

After leading her to the incubator, Joseph then told her, “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.”

During the baby’s month-long stay in the hospital, he battled meningitis and jaundice, fighting against the odds. Because of Joseph’s kind words, Coates and the father visited the nursery every day, and she brought bottles of chilled breast milk.

Coates had been afraid to tell her grandparents and her mother about her pregnancy, especially knowing her mom had also been pregnant at 15 and ended up dropping out of school because of it. She knew they did not want the same thing for her.

Because Joseph was never judgemental of her and was so nurturing and motherly, Coates told her about her fear of telling her grandparents, and she encouraged her to do so, which Coates ended up doing.

Coates’ mother came to the hospital and immediately wanted to hold the baby, and her grandmother had an identical reaction shortly after. They said they just wish she would not have kept the pregnancy a secret.

Coates knew everyone was afraid she would drop out of school like her mother had done if she kept the baby, but was surprised when her family offered to watch little baby Allen while she attended classes. Coates not only graduated high school, she graduated from Rock Valley College as a certified nursing assistant, and now works as a law clerk while attending law school in hopes of becoming a mental health attorney.

A year after her baby had been born, Coates went back to the hospital to thank Joseph and the rest of the nurses. She told Joseph, “I want you to be proud of me.”

Joseph and Coates lost touch with one another over time, but it was because of Joseph that Coates chose to become a nursing assistant. But after 12 years, Coates wanted to tell Joseph how much of an impression she had made on her. She reached out to her on Facebook from her home in Arizona where she now resides.

She let Joseph know that her “shoebox baby,” Allen Corey, is doing just fine and that she is now the mother of three. Allen began reading late and was born with a slight speech impediment, but by the fourth grade he was reading at a ninth-grade level in mainstream classes, is now in the eighth grade, plays soccer, runs cross-country, and is a member of the Navy Sea Cadet program.

The father is unfortunately no longer in their lives and has not been since the child was four. Coates and Joseph stay in regular contact with each other but are not certain when they will get to visit.

Joseph had this to say, “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 part of someone’s story of their life – that’s such an honor.”

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