Amazing things happen in the world of medicine every day, like this month’s breakthrough that allows doctors to use AI to recreate human cells for disease study. But the real magic in the industry comes from the connections formed between patient and caregiver. Nurses care for hundreds of patients each year, sometimes as just a passing helper, and sometimes as an embodiment of hope and kindness that patients carry away with them for the rest of their lives.
Many times, those patients and those nurses never see each other again. But in some cases, reunions do happen… even if that reunion is almost forty years later.
For Amanda Scarpinati, that special nurse was a woman she met in 1977 as a three-month old baby. Already suffering from an illness (possibly pneumonia), Amanda was lying on a couch when she rolled over—falling off the furniture and onto the scalding hot surface of a boiling steam vaporizer.
The damage was instant and intense. She was rushed to the hospital, where multiple surgeries and grafts followed. Her struggle didn’t end there, with years of reconstructive surgeries and school bullying still to survive. But in those years, Amanda found strength and comfort in something unusual… a magazine photo from her first appearance at the hospital.
In the photo, a young nurse cradles the heavily bandaged Amanda, who appears remarkably calm in her arms.
“It’s the nurses who are there comforting you, and here I am, this tiny infant, she’s just staring at me and smiling and I wasn’t crying in any of those pictures, so that says a lot,” says Amanda. “Growing up as a child, disfigured by the burns, I was bullied and picked on, tormented. I’d look at those pictures and talk to her, even though I didn’t know who she was. I took comfort looking at this woman who seemed so sincere caring for me.”
Twenty years later, Amanda has recovered beautifully from the scars and surgeries, though her journey and the mystery nurse remained constantly on her mind. Finally, on a whim, Amanda decided to do something about it—posting the photo online and asking for help in tracking down the identity of the woman.
The post exploded—quickly going viral and spreading through the nursing community nationwide. It wasn’t long until another nurse from that same hospital, Angela Leary, recognized a familiar face.
“I said oh my God, that’s Sue Berger,” said Leary. “Connecting the dots was easy and I was happy to do it.”
And once the dots were connected, it didn’t take long for the reunion to finally happen. (You can watch the tearful moment unfold in this video from NBC news).
Nurse Berger, despite the passage of nearly four decades, remembered the moment she held Amanda. She’d held on to the same photos, and had even spoken of the moment with family and friends.
“She [Amanda] was very peaceful,” Nurse Berger said. “Usually when babies come out of surgery, they’re sleeping or crying. She was just so calm and trusting. It was amazing.”
“I don’t know how many nurses would be lucky enough to have something like this happen, to have someone remember you all that time,” she continued. “I feel privileged to be the one to represent all the nurses who cared for her over the years. This is to me what nursing means. It’s caring. It’s our gift.”