Jenny Murray, R.N., nursing manager for the neonatal intensive care unit at Centennial Medical Center in Frisco, Texas, gets to witness miracles every day. “I see a mom walk down the hall with a baby in her belly, and eight hours later, I’m going to delivery, and there’s a baby on the outside,” she says. “I don’t ever take that lightly. There aren’t many jobs where you get to do that,” she says.
But her co-workers and the parents of babies she’s cared for say she’s the one who works miracles. Calee Travis, R.N., chief nursing officer at Centennial, says, “Jenny gives a real big piece of herself to these families. She’s one of those unsung heroes who goes above and beyond, but to her, it’s just what she does.”
Murray connects deeply with all families, and for those whose newborn does not survive, she brings deep empathy and understanding. One of the families Murray will never forget had a baby who was born with a fatal chromosomal abnormality. “I was here the day we told the family about the diagnosis, and I was here the day we took her off the ventilator,” she says.
To help them honor and remember their baby, Murray bought a keepsake box and filled it with tiny mementos from their daughter’s life: the socks she wore in the NICU, a lock of her hair, and a tiny set of carefully made hand- and footprints. “It was something they could keep forever as a memory,” says Travis.
Families treasure those kinds of gestures and others, like the cards she has sent some bereaved parents on their child’s birthday and anniversary of death. Since making that first memorabilia box, Murray has put together more of them for other bereaved families.
“When families grieve a baby they’ve lost early on, sometimes they don’t have a ton of people who’ve met the baby,” Murray says. “They fear their memory will just die, so I try to be real cognizant of that, help them retain some memories, and to show them I remember and that I really cared about their baby.”
Of course, an infant’s intensive care stay often ends on a joyful note. “You ride a real roller coaster of emotions in the NICU,” Murray says. From the first time parents hold their baby, to the first time a mother has to go home with her newborn still in the NICU, to the day the baby is discharged, Murray helps parents cope with a wide range of emotions. “I tell them we’re going to get through this. We don’t teach kindergarten here in the NICU,” she laughs.
One priority is to help parents feel as though their baby “is still their baby,” as she puts it. “With all the special care the babies need, the nurses kind of take over. But I like making sure that families feel like part of the team, and integrating them into the NICU. Sometimes parents can’t hold their babies for a few weeks, but they can put their hands on them to calm them, take their temperatures, or change their diapers.”
Murray has organized reunions for parents whose infants have stayed in the NICU at the same time. “I really enjoy being able to celebrate as well as being able to mourn with some of the families,” she says. She’s gone to first birthday parties, and parents bring their children to visit Murray as they grow older.
Travis praises Murray’s relationships with co-workers and supervisors, too. “She’s one of those people where I know I can just pick up the phone, call her, and have a down-to-earth, honest conversation,” she says. “She not only has a lot of clinical expertise, but she pulls her load. She’s very giving and people enjoy working with her. Other nurses look up to her as a mentor.”
Murray takes a more modest view of herself. “I feel as though I’m doing what I’ve been called to do,” she explains. “Some of the things I do, I don’t do to try to make a mark; I don’t even realize they’re something extra. Then I hear from parents how important it was to them.”
Her gift is being able to be present with the parents, whether that’s for the happiest of moments or the most difficult. “I believe I’m in my niche,” Murray says. “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”