A NICU nurse went above and beyond for a young patient giving birth to triplets – eventually adopting her and becoming a grandparent to her three children.
Katrina Mullen, from Indiana, met 14-year-old Shariya Small when the teen gave birth to triplets at 26 weeks in 2020, meaning the babies had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Community Hospital North where she worked.
She noticed the eighth-grader would spend days on end sitting alone by the triplets’ bedside for their five-month stay in hospital and did not appear to have anyone around her to support her and never came with a packed lunch.
Katrina told Today: “Something shifted after I told her that I was a teen mom. That’s when we really developed trust.”
The nurse helped Shariya through the first months of her triplets’ life, teaching her about newborn care, but grew concerned for the teen’s welfare after she would be discharged as she still knew nothing about her family.
She grew worried about Shariya’s support system and couldn’t work out why the young mother was calling her so often, so paid a visit to her home on her day off, where she was shocked at what she found.
Shariya did not even have a proper bed to sleep on and the conditions she and her babies were living in landed one of the newborns in hospital, prompting the Department of Social Services to get involved.
She explained: “I knew it would be impossible to find a foster home that would take all four of them. No one was going to take a teen mom and her preemie triplets… I just kept thinking, ‘I have to do this.’
“I knew it would be hard, but we’d figure it out.”
Her kind actions helped to change Shariya’s life, and the now-17-year-old was able to go back to an alternative high school where she graduated with an A- average, and is currently touring nearby colleges in the hopes of studying to become a social worker herself.
Shariya has also worked on her own well-being in therapy as well as being a devoted mother, with Katrina saying that the teen takes charge with looking after her children and she only steps in to babysit when Shariya is out.
The selfless nurse added: “I’m so proud to be Shariya’s mom. Has it been easy? No! She pushes limits just like any other teenager, but I love her. I’m her mom – and I’m never going anywhere.”