Mother’s Day will always be special for Donna Brickman, CPA, PMP, a project manager in the Performance Excellence Department. Many years ago, her only child, Kristin, was born with a cleft palate and rushed to what then was All Children’s Hospital where she received surgery and special care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Today, Kristin Moen is a registered nurse working at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital as a bone marrow transplant coordinator.
Brickman had only been working at the hospital a short time when Kristin was born at a hospital in north Pinellas County. “By all accounts I had a very normal pregnancy,” she says.
But things took an unusual twist at the delivery. “I heard her cry and then nothing,” Brickman says. “I panicked and asked if something was wrong. They told me that they were trying to get her to breathe.”
Turns out Kristin had a cleft palate, a birth defect in which a baby's palate (roof of the mouth) doesn't form completely and has an opening in it. That caused her tongue to get stuck cutting off the air to her lungs. She also had Pierre Robin sequence, an anomaly where her chin was not fully developed, causing more complications for feeding and lengthening her hospital stay.
“It now seems like a minor medical situation compared to the challenges the docs see in our NICU on a daily basis,” Brickman says.
Before long, the doctors told her they were sending Kristin to All Children’s with the neonatal transport team where she could get the specialized care needed to repair the cleft palate.
“I remember thinking, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Brickman says. “I work at All Children’s and now my baby is headed there? The NICU seemed overwhelming at first. I got the full All Children’s experience. Since I lived in the north part of Hillsborough County at the time, during Kristin’s two months in the NICU, we stayed initially at the Ronald McDonald House.”
Jeane McCarthy, M.D., was part of the neonatal medical team that cared for Kristin. She provided Brickman with critical advice at a major decision point that helped with Kristin’s care and recovery. “Every time I see her, she still asks about Kristin and I bring her up to date. She was incredible.”
Kristin had successful surgery to repair the cleft palate when she was 6 months old. Several other surgeries followed along with two years of speech therapy. “She’s beautiful, she’s wonderful, and I’m so proud of her!” Brickman says.
Although Kristin was too young to remember her first encounter with the hospital, she does recall coming to work on occasion with Brickman and coming with her school to see her mom perform in “What’s so good about feeling bad?” a play the hospital staff put on for children.
Growing up, Kristin says she wasn’t sure exactly sure what her mom did at the hospital. “I knew she did something with money,” she says.
As she got older, she served as a hospital teen volunteer and vividly remembers being part of the team helping move patients into the new hospital on a cold rainy day in 2011.
She got seriously interested in becoming a nurse during a shadowing experience in high school. After she graduated, she got her first job at the hospital. During her college career she worked in various positions including: patient accounts, a health unit coordinator in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) and a patient care technician and ultimately came back as an RN in the NICU after graduating from the University of South Florida where Brickman graduated from and is proud that Kristin is now a member of the alumni.
Brickman beams with pride when she talks about her daughter. “I’m very proud of Kristin. She has worked hard to complete her education, a master's degree in nursing education, and has an important job at the hospital,” she says. “Along with her husband, she is raising my wonderful grandchildren, Ellie and Will.”
“It took me a little longer to get where I wanted to be,” Moen says with a smile. “But I got here. This place has always been family. I’ve been here in some form almost my entire life.”
Since Moen and Brickman have very different jobs at the hospital, they admit they don’t get to see each other at work very much. “Sometimes mom will call me and say, ‘I brought leftovers from home today. Do you want to come have lunch in my office and catch up?’
“Mom has always been supportive. She pushed me just the right amount. I go to her for advice a lot,” Moen says. “I have so much more appreciation for her now, especially being a mother myself.”