Anyone who’s had a baby in the NICU knows that it’s an intense experience you don’t easily forget. The time your baby spends there feels like a lifetime, and however it turns out, you become eternally grateful for the amazing staff that cared for your newborn through such a difficult time.
NICU nurses in particular — who do so much of the hands-on, day-to-day care of your baby — are true heroes in my book. They care for vulnerable babies with as much attention and tenderness as they would their own child. So it makes sense that most NICU nurses remember their patients forever.
Just take Vilma Wong, a NICU nurse who has worked at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford for the past 32 years. Recently, a chance encounter reunited her with a former NICU patient, Brandon Seminatore, now a second-year pediatric resident completing a Child Neurology Residency at Stanford University.
Let me tell you: their story will absolutely make your heart melt.
Photos of the sweet reunion were shared on the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford’s Facebook page on August 15. It’s a “then and now” photo comparison, with Wong holding baby Seminatore 28 years ago on the left, and the two of them reunited and smiling ear to ear, on the right.
Naturally, the touching post is now going viral. I mean, how could you not get a little teary-eyed looking at these unbelievable moments of connection? (Pass the Kleenex, please and thank you.)
Wong tells Babble that the reunion was just as amazing as you might imagine.
Seminatore had been working on Wong’s medical team at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, caring for patients alongside her, when Wong started to get an inkling that he might have been one of her former patients.
“I asked who he was and his name, and his last name sounded very familiar,” she says. “I kept asking where he was from and he told me that he was from San Jose, California, and that, as a matter of fact, he was a premature baby born at our hospital. I then got very suspicious because I remember being the primary nurse to a baby with the same last name.”
To confirm her suspicion, she asked if his dad was a police officer. What followed was an emotional silence.
“He asked me if I was Vilma. I said yes,” recalls Wong.
Incredibly, Seminatore’s mother had already instructed him to look for a “Vilma” in the NICU. But he’s told his mom that it was pretty unlikely that he’d find her, assuming she’d already retired.
Lo and behold, here she was, right before him. They were both in awe.
“I was in shock initially but overjoyed to know that I took care of him almost 30 years ago and now he’s as a pediatric resident to the same population he was part of when he was born,” says Wong.
Seminatore shares her sentiments, telling Babble that meeting Wong was a “surreal experience” and that he “never expected to meet a provider who took care of me when I was a baby.”
Soon after their identities were confirmed, Seminatore remembered photos of the two of them that his parents had shown him. Wong says he immediately texted his parents, who were quickly able to come up with that sweet old pic of Wong holding little Seminatore on her lap all those years ago.
Not only has their story touched the hearts of many on social media (the post has 27K likes and 3K shares on Facebook, as well as hundreds of heartwarming comments), but the experience has touched the hearts of both Wong and Seminatore deeply.
“It truly sunk in that I was one of these babies,” Seminatore says of the experience. “I’ve come full-circle and I’m taking care of babies with the nurse that took care of me.”
Seminatore — who shares that he was a 29-week old preemie in the NICU for well over a month — is inspired by Wong’s devotion, commitment, and care as a healthcare professional, and he hopes to bring those same qualities to his own career.
“Meeting Vilma showed me the dedication and love she has for her career,” he says. “She cares deeply for her patients, to the point that she was able to remember a patient’s name almost three decades later.”
Wong is just as passionate about her NICU nursing career as you might expect. Originally from Nicaragua, Central America, Wong came to the United States when she was 16, where she earned her BS and MS degree in nursing. Her first job was at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, and she has worked there ever since.
“I love my job as a NICU nurse and I consider myself very lucky to be in a profession that I love and make a difference in somebody’s life,” she tells Babble.
And my goodness — that is exactly what she has done.
Three cheers for Wong, and all the dedicated NICU nurses and healthcare professionals who add a little extra light and love into the lives of the families they serve.