Chicago Tribune

Forever bound by 'shoebox baby,' mother and nurse reconnect 12 years later

ROCKFORD, Ill. - Neonatal nurse Jeannie Joseph vividly remembers the day the 3-pound infant was brought in a shoebox to the special care nursery at SwedishAmerican hospital in Rockford. The tiny infant wore a baby doll's onesie and was wrapped in a dish towel.

Because the boy - born six weeks prematurely - had gone for hours without the warming and nutrients needed for a baby born so early, Joseph and the medical team worked quickly to treat him for hypothermia, dehydration and an infection from the household scissors used to cut his umbilical cord.

The following morning, when the baby was stable, Joseph noticed a teenage girl walking with her head down toward the nursery doors. The girl just wanted a look at the baby she was preparing to relinquish under the state's Safe Haven law.

The longtime nurse remembers feeling her heart swell with sadness and compassion.

"I put my hand on her shoulder and said, 'I'm taking care of this cute little guy,'" Joseph recalled of the day in 2004 when she led the teen mom to the baby in his incubator.

"I said, '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,'" Joseph recalled. "All of a sudden, she went from looking down to up at me and we just connected."

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