Parkland NICU nurse gives grieving families memories to cling to

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on July 17, 2014 at 5:44 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 18 at 7:55 AM

DALLAS -- Miracles happen inside the doors of Parkland's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

The smallest of preemies - even those now dwarfed by a nurse's hands - can grow, gain strength, thrive, and survive.

But sometimes they don't. Those are the times when nurse Jamie Fink feels like she's doing what she was put on this earth to do.

She grieves when mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, don't get a chance to bond with a baby who is lost.

"It's a memory they'll never be able to get back," she said.

One of the babies she lost seven years ago changed her and the entire Parkland NICU forever.

"I came in on Sunday morning, and she was my patient," Jamie recalled.

Sarah Belle Kuck was born Saturday, October 20, 2007, with a hole in her diaphragm. She died October 21.

"She served God's purpose for her life in 20 hours," said her mother, Kristin Brennan.

Sarah's father and Kristen got word that their daughter had a life-threatening condition about 36 weeks into the pregnancy. Sarah was born two weeks later at Parkland, on a Saturday afternoon.

Kristin was in a room on the other side of the hospital, still in a lot of pain on the following morning. She remembers people running into her room, and wheeling her down the halls in her bed to try to get her to Sarah's bedside before she passed away.

"There were doctors all around her giving her CPR," Kristin said. "I can still hear my mom saying, 'Just breathe, just breathe, just breathe.' And then, she flat-lined. They handed her to me and I remember thinking, 'How do I begin to even know what to do here?'"

Jamie Fink knew what to do. She took pictures.

"This one, I love," Kristin said, flipping through the scrapbook Jamie gave her. It is filled with the only photos they have documenting Sarah Belle's short life.

"If Jamie had not put this together, had she not done this, I would have no idea what Sarah even looked like," she said, holding the scrapbook close. "What she looked like in the funeral home was not what she looked like when she was born.

"She was just so peaceful and pretty. Jamie captured that for me," Kristin said.

Seeing what her first, hastily-put-together picture book meant to Kristin, Jamie started taking photos of every Parkland baby and making scrapbooks for the ones they lost.

"You get a call that 'Your baby's really sick, come now.' Do you think about grabbing your good camera?" Jamie said. "It's hard if family members didn't get to know what baby to really accept them as an integral part of the family."

The project has grown so much that volunteer mom groups now help, assembling empty scrapbook pages which the NICU nurses keep in storage. They make books for every grieving family, and send them home with pacifiers, blankets, and clothes their babies used and wore.

No one leaves Parkland's NICU empty handed.

"Just a semblance of normalcy -- whatever that may be," Jamie said. "I can't imagine walking out with nothing. They lost so much."

The scrapbook program is carried out through donations. To keep it going, cash, check, or credit card gifts for the NICU can help. To make a donation online go to this link.

Kristin is honored that she was the first; that Sarah Belle's legacy lives on.

"Jamie's a saint," she said, of the nurse she remains in contact with. "This shows Sarah was here. She was alive. She had a purpose. And she went to heaven."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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