By Marcia Frellick
Diane Marconi, BS, RNC, remembers getting the call at midnight while she was on maternity leave from her job as a NICU nurse at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
The disturbing news was that her niece would be delivered within hours at only 26 weeks, 14 weeks shy of full term. The good news was that she would be delivered at CHoNJ in a unit where Marconi knew all the nurses and attending physicians and would be able to “call every morning and drive them crazy,” to get the baby’s lab values, hemoglobin and ventilator settings.
“I was very, very worried,” Marconi said.
Mallory Marconi was born March 29, 1990, at 2 pounds, 3.5 ounces. Now 24, Mallory Marconi, BSN, RN, said her first memories of realizing what nurses and doctors had done for her came in about first grade.
Her mother, Lynn Szlasa, RN, is also a nurse and works at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, N.J.
Mallory Marconi’s own experience, combined with exposure to nurses in her family, made nursing school a clear choice early on, she said. After graduation from Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pa., her choice of job location was easy. In October, she started her career where she began her life — at NBIMC.
Mallory Marconi, who works on a med/surg unit, said she can’t imagine having chosen any other hospital.
“This is definitely the right career choice for me,” she said. “I love it.”
What Mallory Marconi loves most is the feeling of giving back.
“Just like when I was a preemie, all those nurses gave back and now I’m doing the exact same thing,” she said.
Diane Marconi was not at all surprised by her niece’s career choice. Mallory has been coming to the CHoNJ preemie reunion picnics as a volunteer and as a former patient since the early years, she said.
“From the time she was a little girl, Mallory has been interested in taking care of people,” Diane Marconi said.
<h3>Reunion with primary nurse</h3>
Mallory’s primary nurse that night in 1990, Ruth Benko, RNC, and several other caregivers on the team during her first days of life still work in the NICU at CHoNJ.
Benko remembers that night because Mallory was a relative of her coworker. More than two decades later, she walked up to the med/surg floor to meet her patient-turned-colleague. Mallory Marconi hugged her and Benko marveled at the woman and nurse her former patient had become.
“It was nice to see something positive coming out of all the care we give the babies,” Benko said. “We don’t always get to see the result.”
Benko said when she started her career in the late 1970s, there was little a nurse could do for a baby under 2 pounds. Technology and advances in neonatology have made it possible to treat babies of almost all weights now, she said.
Diane Marconi added when Mallory was born, there was no surfactant medicine, a substance that helps preemies’ lungs develop, which was a major advancement in care for premature infants.
According to the CDC, one of nine babies was born prematurely — under 37 weeks — in 2012
When Mallory Marconi hears stories from NICU nurses about newborns struggling at 5 pounds in 2014, she marvels that she was about half of that weight in 1990.
“It truly is a complete miracle that I made it,” she said. “I’m fine and now I’m a nurse. I think that’s totally awesome.”
Marcia Frellick is a freelance writer.