One of the most terrifying ordeals a parent can experience is the premature or complicated birth of a child.
That’s exactly why Texas-based NICU nurse Tammy Lewis works to bring relief to worried, new parents each day. She helps save the lives of dozens of babies fighting to grow stronger, providing both comfort and medical care to her tiny charges at McLane Children’s Medical Center Baylor Scott & White.
Lewis brings a smile to work every day, but her passion for helping the smallest and most helpless members of society has a deeper connection with her own life story.
When Lewis was born at that very same hospital in Temple, Texas 34 years ago, she fought a battle of her own—and now works to give back at the very same place that helped save her life.
Lewis was born at just 24 weeks gestation, weighing only 1 lb 4 oz at the time of her birth. She was what is described as a micro-preemie, the smallest of all premature babies, and was the smallest baby born in Texas at the time to survive. Her mother was told that she had just a five to ten percent chance of surviving.
It took her a grueling three-and-a-half months of growing and developing in the NICU at the very hospital she works now before she was able to go home with her parents, essentially spending the additional 14 weeks that most babies would spend in utero fighting for her life outside her mother’s womb.
She beat the odds, though, and was able to go home with her parents just before her original due date. Now, she uses uses her career to help with other babies in the very situation she was in when she was first born. She went to school to become a nurse and respiratory therapist, knowing that she wanted to help the babies that had the kind of odds she had when she was born.
“Going through school, I knew this was that place I wanted to be,” she told KCENT Channel 6. “I knew I wanted to work with children, and not just children, but NICU patients. Not many people can say that you can go work where you were born and care for the same type of patients that you were and be able to give back in that way.”
She works at a level for neonatal intensive care unit, which deals with the most severe of cases. She spends her days connecting respiratory tubes, something that she had to use while she struggled to breathe and live in her own earliest days.
For Lewis, though, it was hardly ever a question as to whether this was where she belonged.
“Once I started researching the medical field, I talked to a program director and immediately fell in love with it,” said Lewis.”This is where God was leading me to be.”
She’s now the parent of two children of her own, both of whom were born at full term. Although her own family has been blessed and healthy, though, she hopes that getting to talk to the parents in the NICU about her own success story gives them a sense of hope.
“My hope is that those parents who have children like I was can see a success story, working right there alongside you, working with you and your child, getting to know them and showing them there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “I hope I can give them a little hope.”