NICU journey leads family to nursing

By Laura Gasque

When Jade England and her twin sister were born, they weighed less than two pounds. They spent 87 days in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“We had central lines,” England said of the constant care they needed from birth. “We still have that scar from where they were placed. It’s just crazy to see that we have actual proof of what we’ve been through.”

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That scar is the only physical reminder of their journey. England knows how lucky they are to not have any complications from being born prematurely. Growing up, she saw the pictures of their tiny bodies covered in sensors and tubes. When she decided to become a nurse, she knew she had to return to where her story started—the NICU.

“You have to have compassion for those babies. You just have to be called to do that,” England said. “I want to be able to be that nurse to let the parents know that I was in their child’s place. I just want to provide the best care possible and hopefully sharing my story will make a difference in their stay in the NICU. I don’t want to give them false hope, but I also want them to know that miracles happen.”

England, a fifth semester Bachelor of Science in Nursing student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, graduates in April and has already accepted a position at UAB Hospital in the Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Her mother, Tara Wood, hopes her daughter will be able to give families the comfort she remembered needing.

“They’re going to be told all the bad, but when you can see a living example of success, I think it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to see what she does,” Wood said.

England will be working with one of the nurse practitioners who cared for her at the hospital where she was born. During her clinical at UAB, they made the connection.

“She literally walked me around the entire unit and was telling everybody, ‘this is my baby, I took care of her and her sister,’” England said.

Like mother, like daughter

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Wood remembers not being able to hold her children for months. During that time, her lifeline to her girls was the nurses and nurse practitioners.

“My world was rocked,” Wood said. “My babies were really sick. Both of the girls were on the ventilator for weeks. Their organs were premature, and you’re faced with all the things that can go wrong. Just knowing that every minute mattered, it really put you in a constant state of terror and panic, of not really knowing how your babies are going to survive, much less thrive.”

She had planned on becoming a teacher, but the twins’ experience in the hospital changed her life. She realized she wanted to be a nurse so she could care for other families.

After working as a NICU nurse, she earned her Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice from the UAB School of Nursing. The journey came full circle for her as well. She’s now an Assistant Professor at the School and the Coordinator for the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Specialty Track, teaching and preparing nurses to care for infants and families.

“Being a NICU mom 22 years ago we didn’t really talk about post-traumatic stress disorder and things like that that really lingered. I think I found healing by helping others,” Wood said.

Ever faithful, ever loyal

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Throughout the family’s story, the UAB connections run deep. Taylor England, Jade’s twin sister, is also a UAB student graduating this spring. The UAB College of Arts and Sciences student majored in psychology with a minor in legal affairs and a certificate in mental health. During her time at UAB, she participated in the Psychology Honors Program and served as a TrailBlazer, giving campus tours to prospective students and their families.

“UAB means everything to me. It is where I have laughed, cried, failed, succeeded, loved and learned the most,” Taylor said. “Over the past four years, I have grown so much as a person, and I would not be where I am without this school.”

Jade wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and plans to return to school next year to start the Post-BSN to DNP Nurse Practitioner Pathway to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. One day, she hopes to teach alongside her mom.

“I’m a proud mom and I want to share them with the world because I think that they were born to do great things,” Wood said. “They have servants’ hearts, and they want to help and do good. I’m thankful for UAB because I think UAB has been a place that has really poured into them and allowed them the opportunity to do for others.”

Last modified on April 22, 2022

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