It’s always frightening when your newborn baby’s health is in danger. Many new mothers have been forced to endure long stays at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), waiting to finally get the word they can take their child home.
During these stressful times, it always helps when the hospital makes things friendly and comfortable for you. One mother never forgot the help she received nearly two decades ago—and when her son returned to the hospital recently, he paid it forward in a very special way.
It was 18 years ago when Cathy Cicero gave birth to her son, Zach, at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago—at just 25 weeks.
The premature birth required the mother and newborn to stay at the NICU for three and half months.
Throughout the long, challenging stay, Cathy still found time to bond with Zach. The NICU was as close to home as they could get.
“I would read to him, I would play music for him,” she told WLS.
“We would sit in the rocking chair and just talk.”
The mother and son eventually left the hospital, and Zach is now in perfect health. He’s a senior at St. Patrick High School, and will play football at Concordia University Chicago in the Fall.
He’s also on the verge of becoming an Eagle Scout, which required him to do a community service project. And Zach recently completed his project—one that brought him back to a familiar place:
He built and donated rocking chairs for the St. Joseph’s NICU!
Zach returned to the hospital where he spent the first few months of his life, gifting them chairs just like the one his mother sat in with him. They were put together by Zach and his fellow scouts.
“I just had to come back and help out the people that helped me,” Zach said.
His mother also came along, and recalled her own stay as she sat in one of her son’s chairs.
“This is like a homecoming,” Cathy said, after hugging the hospital staff. “Without them, we wouldn’t be here with Zachary.”
Zach delivered the three rocking chairs, and it didn’t take long for them to be put to good use: Zach got to see a new mother and her newborn baby girl sit in the chair, seeing firsthand the impact his gift has.
“It’s not something you could like prepare yourself for,” he told WLS. “One of the best moments of my life, I can tell you that.”
It’s an inspiring story, one that shows how long people remember acts of helpfulness and kindness, and how they can pay it forward even decades later.