Columbia NICU nurse adopts ill baby from her hospital
COLUMBIA - After raising two adult children, Kim McDaniel was not expecting to be the mother of a baby again.
“I have two older children that are both out of the home,” McDaniel said. “So, I was enjoying being an empty nester.”
Her life changed in a matter of months. McDaniel is a nurse at the MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Columbia. She had just started working at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) when a little girl named Brooklyn was born.
Brooklyn, McDaniel said, was born with severe medical problems. She had a massive tumor in her mouth that grew from the base of her tongue. The tumor was so big it filled her entire mouth, protruded out of her mouth and grew into her throat. This made it nearly impossible for Brooklyn to speak or eat.
McDaniel said Brooklyn had to have a tracheostomy allowing her to breathe through a tube in her throat. She also had a feeding tube inserted.
McDaniel was Brooklyn’s nurse throughout her time at the hospital.
She said things took a dark turn when Brooklyn’s birth parents abandoned her at the hospital.
“I just felt so bad for her,” McDaniel said. “It just broke my heart every time she would go for surgery. When they would bring her back, there was no one for the doctors to talk to. There was no one waiting for her.”
McDaniel said she and the other nurses were compelled to be Brooklyn’s family. She said they took turns holding her and caring for her beyond what their job required of them.
“We knew she was alone but we never wanted her to feel like she was,” said McDaniel.
McDaniel said hoped the situation would change for Brooklyn and that her parents would return. But it never changed and they never returned.
“I just spent a lot of time praying for her,” she said. Her prayers was for God to send Brooklyn a family to love her.” But McDaniel said she became convinced that she was the family Brooklyn needed.
“I just felt like God was just saying ‘You’re asking me to do something that I’ve equipped you to do,’" she said.
She began the process of fostering Brooklyn. She said she knew she had made the right decision when it took only three days to successfully complete the process, which is typically long and tedious.
“The red tapes were just falling every step of the way,” said McDaniel.
But she did have concerns. McDaniel says she is a single woman, so the thought of raising a child with severe medical complications seemed especially difficult. But fears aside, she decided to permanently and legally make Brooklyn part of her family.
In April 2018, on her own birthday, McDaniel adopted the baby that had once been her patient.
McDaniel’s now-middle daughter, Sydney Summers, said Brooklyn has changed their lives.
“Everything revolves around Brooklyn,” she said gleefully as she cradled Brooklyn in her arms. “And it’s in the best way. We just love her so much.”
Since Brooklyn requires such extensive care and support, nurses at the hospital had created a private Facebook page where McDaniel could ask for help and they could all support her and Brooklyn. They originally called it B’s World. Now, the group has grown to a public Facebook page with more than 400 people. McDaniel frequently posts updates in the group for people who are now following Brooklyn’s journey.
Since the adoption, the McDaniels have faced great difficulties. At almost two years old, Brooklyn has had 11 surgeries in the past year. Her mom said the surgeries are mainly to reduce the tumor in Brooklyn’s throat and mouth without damaging her tongue. Doctors have found the tumor is now growing at a rate much quicker than the surgeries can keep up with.
“We can’t have her go through a surgery every three months,” McDaniel said. “Every surgery is now more difficult for her than the last.”
McDaniel said removing the tumor completely would mean Brooklyn would lose her tongue. She has been working with doctors at Cinncinati Children’s Hospital to devise a plan that would allow Brooklyn to keep her tongue.
As she weighs the options, another thing weighs heavily on McDaniel’s heart.
“I just think back to when she was in the NICU and she was alone. And the thought of leaving her alone again in the hospital, because financially I have to work, is tough,” McDaniel said.
In addition to supporting McDaniel, Brooklyn’s Village has created a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the cost of Brooklyn’s treatment. The group also sells t-shirts with the slogan “It takes a village.” It's a constant reminder for McDaniel and Brooklyn that they always have support.