Diplomas are never earned without perseverance and hard work. Five-month-old Jamela’s tiny pink tassel symbolizes defiance of the odds and a victorious fight to live.
“Even if she goes Ivy League, this graduation is bigger because of all she’s accomplished to get here,” says Laura Straub, R.N., who remembers a 1½ pound preemie and a mom who gave birth while driving herself to the hospital and handed a near-lifeless infant over to an Emergency Center staff from the driver’s seat of her car.
Her mother, Ebone, was told Jamela would likely have no quality of life if she survived the next few hours or days. When her condition worsened even more, she was flown by helicopter to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. She has undergone two abdominal surgeries and three brain surgeries to get to graduation day.
“Jamela has been fighting for her life since the moment she arrived into the world,” recalls Straub, who’s been helping care for her since she was admitted.
“She’s been a fighter since day one,” Straub says. “A sassy sweetheart – adorable and strong.”
Bunting made of preemie diapers clipped together decorates the room where Ebone never missed a single day beside her daughter’s crib, which Straub credits for the tiny graduate’s knack for grit and travail.
With her eyes filled with tears and pride, Ebone hugs her daughter’s caregivers goodbye.
In the room where monitors once chirped and beeped for 155 days, the graduation march Pomp and Circumstance echoes from fellow nurse Lexi Williams’ smartphone. A small crowd lines the hall for the family’s long-awaited exit waiving signs and cheering softly so as not to wake the neighbors.