Rachael Blatnik stared down at the tile floor in the Providence Portland Medical Center, her face burning with embarrassment. The 18-year-old had just graduated from high school, but instead of heading off to college to play basketball, as she’d always dreamed, she was about to give birth to her first baby.
Since learning that she was pregnant, the Portland, Oregon, teen had been filled with shame and fear, intensified by the averted or judgmental gazes of classmates and adults alike. As much as she loved her baby, Rachael couldn’t help but worry that her life was over.
As contractions set in and her new husband and father of her baby, 21-year-old Larry, took her hand, a voice suddenly broke through Rachael’s reverie. “I’m the nurse who will be watching over you.”
Rachael glanced up uneasily, when suddenly, her heart surged: The blond nurse standing in front of her was looking straight into her eyes — and smiling.
It’s been a long time since someone has looked at me like I mattered, Rachael thought, realizing just how unworthy these past months had made her feel. This woman’s compassionate gaze made her feel loved and safe. It’s like she actually sees me, Rachael marveled.
In that moment, Rachael realized she was still the same bright young woman she’d always been. And as the kind nurse helped her welcome her baby girl, Taylor, into the world, Rachael’s heart filled with hope she hadn’t felt in months.
This isn’t the end, Rachael smiled. It’s the beginning of a new life — for my baby and for me.
A Beautiful New Purpose
Days later, a joyful Rachael took her newborn baby home for the first time. And as she watched Taylor grow, a new purpose took hold in her life. I want to give others the care and dignity that my nurse gave to me, she resolved. And with a surge of joy, Rachael decided to become a nurse herself.
It wasn’t easy being a mom and going to school at night, but Rachael refused to give up. I really should find that nurse and thank her, Rachael would think during her night classes. But immediately, reality would take hold. I can’t even remember her name.
As the years passed, Rachael worked as a medic and got her nursing degree in 2011.
“You’re going to be okay,” she’d soothe patients, treating each
one with the same respect and love she had been shown herself that fateful day. Then one day, a patient asked her why she had decided to become a nurse.
“Because of a nurse who helped me once,” Rachael said with a smile. “She changed my life with her kindness, and now my daughter, Taylor, is about to start training to become a nurse too!”
Rachael’s heart swelled as she realized, This one woman’s
kind act has affected generations, and a renewed fervor to find the nurse took hold. Pulling up the Providence Portland Medical Center Facebook page, she began to write a post, and miraculously the name she’d been trying to remember ber for almost two decades popped into her head: Tracy Stevens.
A Heartfelt Reunion
When hospital administrators responded to Rachael’s post, they said that although Tracy had left Providence, they wanted to help facilitate a reunion. And this past summer. Rachael, Tracy, and Taylor met once again, in the very hospital where their lives had intersected all those year ago. “I’ve wanted to thank you for 20 years,” Rachael said, tears falling as she hugged Tracy. “You gave me the confidence to be a great mom and a nurse. And now Taylor, who you helped deliver, is going to be a nurse too!” Then Rachael gave Tracy a bracelet with an image of an EKG heartbeat. “Your kindness gave me new life,” she beamed.
Tracy smiled. “I don’t feel like I did anything special,” she admit- ted. “But to know I made a positive impact on your life, and that because of that, you and Taylor will go on to touch other lives — it’s just incredible!”
Touching lives is something everyone has the power to do, Rachael says. “We all have the potential to be a light in somebody’s life,” Rachael beams. “Whether you’re a nurse or just in line at the store, look at someone and smile — it just might change a life!”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Kindfulness (Buy on Amazon, $12.99).