WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Her own birth story inspired New Hanover Regional Medical Center neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse Lexi Brown to go into the profession and, coincidentally, she relived a similar situation almost 23 years later during Hurricane Florence.
Brown was born premature at a hospital in Wilmington, Del., on Dec. 29, 1995. She was 29 weeks gestation and spent the first six weeks of her life in an open-bay NICU.
Her parents were not allowed to stay at the hospital during those six weeks so they drove there every day to visit her and take care of her.
Just one week after Brown was born, a blizzard dumped approximately four feet of snow in the area. The governor declared a state of emergency and banned all vehicles from the road except emergency personnel.
“(My parents) kind of felt like they didn’t have any control,” Brown said. “I was their first child and they couldn’t get to me. They had to give my life over to my nurses and that was hard for them.”
Brown said hearing her parents talk about the care her nurses provided during the time they couldn’t visit her is what made her want to become a nurse.
Brown was scheduled to work her first official shift as an NICU nurse on Sept. 12, two days before Hurricane Florence hit and two days after Governor Roy Cooper had declared a state of emergency.
“I just thought it was kind of ironic, pretty funny. Maybe, like, I was the person who was causing these storms to happen,” Brown joked.
Her first official shift turned into a 135-hour marathon as she stayed at NHRMC for six straight days.
This time, it was Brown who was the nurse that took such good care of the NICU babies while some parents couldn't make it to the hospital or stay with their babies during the storm.
“Just having my parents' perspective from it all makes me pay more attention to parents,” Brown said. “I have the baby as my patient but the parents are just as important. Just focusing on how they feel and making sure that they know that they’re still great parents even though they couldn’t be there.”
Brown said one of her patients was a 4-month-old that was set to go home just before Florence hit.
Due to the storm, he ended up having to extend his stay in the NICU. Brown talked to the little boy’s mom on the phone every day and reassured her that he was receiving lots of love and care.
"In between care times, I held him in his rocking chair for hours, and was able to escape my worries about the storm," Brown said.
Although her NICU stay as a patient was hard on her parents, Brown said they couldn’t be more proud to see her back in the NICU now.