Shaunna Akers
January 2019
Labor & Delivery
Mercy Gilbert Medical Center
United States




My husband and I met Shaunna when we were at Mercy Gilbert to deliver our son, W. It wasn't just your typical delivery though; our son was stillborn, and we had been fearing this day ever since we received news of his heart diagnosis about 6 weeks before this day. Being a nurse myself, I was already dreading having to be the patient, because everyone knows that nurses make the worst patients. Add in the nightmare of delivering a dead baby; I was so anxious about who could possibly be our nurse and help get us through this delivery. But God gave us a miracle in the form of Shaunna.
We first met as strangers, but we were already sisters — Nurse Sisters. A sorority of sorts that you're automatically in as soon as the screen says "passed" after that dreadful NCLEX. Nurse Sisters, where you know without saying any words that you have each other's back. Shaunna, a nurse in the field that I "tolerated" in nursing school. Me, a PICU nurse. Within seconds of meeting, she said something sarcastic that made me laugh, even through the tears, ever so briefly exhaling the breath I forgot I was holding. 'She speaks sarcasm just like me, we're going to be ok,' I thought. Another exhale. My broken heart relieved. Thankful. 'Maybe we'll actually survive this.' Then she asked for my son's name, wanting to speak it out loud and affirm his existence. 'W - but you can't tell our family yet because they don't know.' I knew she wouldn't tell even before I asked her not to. Warm heart, hands of mercy, eyes as bright and blue as that sky outside our window. Already speaking his name. W's delivery nurse. So much more than just a nurse. Nurse to nurse, I was already humbled to be her patient.
Shaunna was tangibly love and strength to us when we walked in the doors at Mercy Gilbert. About to walk through fire. Before we were even near the flames, I was already suffocating. Pulling up to the hospital, elevator to the 3rd floor, now ready to run and hide and do everything to not face the most awful, ugly giant that was in front of us. We had been praying for her for weeks — 'God, you know what we need. You have her picked out, I know she'll be great, help us get through this. Please give us the exact nurse we need for our baby, for our fears, for our pure need to survive this. Someone to hold the oxygen over our faces as our plane is going down.'
Shaunna is exactly who you would want as your nurse, whether you're sinking or swimming. She's beautiful and so loving and now she's family. She's one of the sweetest gifts we've experienced in this tragedy. I had no idea that a nurse like Shaunna even existed in the Labor & Delivery world, someone who literally runs into the dark, tragic spaces of loss and grief, offering not just her hand but her entire heart and soul, helping to hold the immense weight of your loss. Made stronger through her own grief and heartache, she's now the lifeline to others who are drowning. She was made for this.
Shaunna spoke our son's name, helped bring him into this world, helped clean him up and gracefully and gently placed him on my chest after he was born. She knew exactly how to help us through every step of our hospital stay. She knew I was a nurse but that didn't stop her from explaining everything I needed to know. And her caring wasn't just for me, she took care of my husband and entire family. She was always one step ahead of our requests and we never really felt like we had "needs" because she was taking care of us so well. She spent hours making plaster molds of W's hands and feet for us to take home—a gift that my husband and I will forever and always cherish. They're irreplaceable and something that words can't describe our gratitude for the time she took to make these for us.
I can imagine the incredible asset Shaunna is to the team at Mercy Gilbert. She's not "just a nurse" or even your average nurse. She excels and puts care into every detail of her patient interaction. I could tell before she told me that she loves her job and she loves being a nurse. As a nurse myself, I can imagine the relief you feel when you're coming onto shift and you see that Shaunna is working that day because you know your day will be filled with laughter and team work. I hope all the "higher ups" know the diamond they have in having Shaunna as an employee.
And lastly, Shaunna, thank you for speaking W's name. Thank you for keeping our heads above water. Thank you for not hating me when I got my epidural at 1830, which meant lots of extra charting for you and leaving late from work on more than one night. Thank you for carrying my grief with me. Thank you for remembering W, and your other babies, with a wind chime in your very own backyard. Thank you for introducing me to Uncrustables. We couldn't have dreamed up a better nurse or hospital to have to deliver our son into Heaven.

Note: This is Shaunna's 2nd DAISY Award!