11.11.2020 Back to News

Methodist Women's Hospital NICU Nurse Makayla Shandera Honored With The DAISY Award

From left: Gavin, Valerie, Brian and Liam Newton
Photo courtesy: Taylor Wintle Photography

When Valerie Newton and her husband, Brian, found out they were expecting twins, “I prayed constantly that we would make it through with two healthy children,” Valerie said. 

And they did. 

But not without the help of a very special nurse.

At 24 weeks, one of couple’s twin boys was diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), meaning he was smaller than normal due to delayed growth inside the womb. 

At 27 weeks, Valerie was diagnosed with preeclampsia – a serious pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and sometimes organ damage. She was admitted to Methodist Women’s Hospital for a few days and discharged on a Friday.

“But that following Monday I was back in the hospital,” she said. “That’s when they told me I’d stay there until these babies were born.”

Her stay lasted three weeks. Both babies made their arrival via caesarean section on April 23, 2019.

Baby Liam was born first, weighing 4 pounds, 4.4 ounces.

Gavin, the smaller twin, was born a minute later. Exactly half the size of his brother, he entered the world at 2 pounds, 2.2 ounces.

Makayla Shandera, BSN, RN, a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse at Women’s, was on Gavin’s delivery team and one of the first individuals Valerie met after the boys were born.

Shandera helped ease Valerie and Brian into their new normal by decorating the boys’ isolettes, creating scrapbook pages and even orchestrating a mini photo shoot for Valerie’s first Mother’s Day. The NICU began feeling like home for the Newtons. And Shandera would remind them daily to take care of themselves. 

“Babies can sense our stress,” Shandera said. “So by taking care of Mom and Dad, we as nurses are actually taking care of the baby. Parents are our patients, too.”

Just when Valerie and Brian seemed to have a handle on the challenges of being NICU parents, the unthinkable happened. Gavin developed a staph infection in his blood. But Valerie and Brian quickly learned that they weren’t alone with their fears. They had Shandera.

“She hugged me as I cried, and she cried with me,” Valerie said.

With Shandera by her side, Valerie knew everything would turn out OK. 

And it did. 

Gavin made a full recovery thanks to the skilled care of his entire NICU team.

After seven weeks in the NICU, Liam was discharged first. Gavin needed five more weeks and was sent home on oxygen.

Leaving the NICU was bittersweet for the Newtons, but it wasn’t goodbye for Valerie and Shandera. Their friendship became even stronger as the days and weeks went on. 

Makayla Shandera, BSN, RN

Valerie knew about The DAISY Award – an honor that recognizes the extraordinary care of nurses. She knew she had to nominate Shandera.

“I got so emotional writing her nomination letter,” Valerie said as she tried to choke back the same tears she spoke of. “You can only say thank you so many times, and it never felt like enough. She was just so special to our family. The way she held the boys. The way she picked them up. The way she’d sneak snuggles with them and talk to them. You could tell she loved them – like actually loved them. And we just love her so much.”

Honored by the award in October, the unassuming Shandera was shocked and elated.

“They had been gone forever, so no, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” she said. “But wow, what a huge honor. Words can’t describe how blessed that made me feel.”

And while Valerie feels blessed by her two healthy boys, she’s also aware of another blessing she received throughout this journey: a treasured friend.

Read more on bestcaretoday.com.