Baby Gisele was born prematurely at 29 weeks to a drug-addicted mother and was alone in neonatal care
A young girl who was born prematurely and had no visitors in hospital has been adopted by a nurse who cared for her.
Liz Smith, 45, had always wanted to be a mother but suffered from infertility and was told she was not a good candidate for IVF.
The same day she was given the devastating news, she happened to meet baby Gisele, who weighed1lb 14oz and had health problems when she was born at 29 weeks to a drug-addicted mother and father.
Gisele had no visitors for months as nurses looked after her in a neonatal intensive care unit, and her future appeared to be uncertain until Ms Smith was introduced.
Staff at Franciscan Children’s hospital in the US city of Boston, Massachusetts, were paying special attention to Gisele, who was on a ventilator in NICU and faced complications such as an oral aversion after being weaned off the drugs taken by her mother.
One day at work, a nurse asked Ms Smith if she had met the infant.
Ms Smith told CNN: “I said, ‘No, why?’ She said, ‘She needs a medical foster home and you two are the perfect pair’.”
She had never thought of foster care or adoption.
Ms Smith instantly bonded with Gisele and began to visit her regularly.
The nurse told the hospital’s blog: “I went to see her every day. It was kind of my reward after a long workday.”
The state of Massachusetts gained custody of the girl when she was three-months-old in October 2016, and a few months later Ms Smith volunteered to foster her.
Gisele, who was diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome as a result of being exposed to drugs during the pregnancy, went to live with Ms Smith in April 2017 when she no longer required specialist care in hospital.
Gisele’s birth parents had supervised visits, but the visits decreased over time and the goal changed from reuniting the family to adoption, the blog said.
Ms Smith told CNN: “It was an emotional roller coaster. When I initially started fostering her, the goal was reunification with her birth parents.”
However, Gisele’s birth mum and dad lost their parental rights in June last year when the state ruled they could not adequately care for the girl.
Ms Smith, the hospital’s senior director of nursing, said in the blog post: “When I got the call that the parents’ rights were terminated, I imagined that it would be a day of relief.
And it was a day I was really sad. I was really happy. But I was really sad for them. I was gaining her but they were losing her.
“And to try to battle addiction and being a mom, that’s impossible.”
She officially adopted Gisele, now aged two, at a court hearing last October.
The judge told her: “When a judge walks in the room, everyone stands out of respect. But today I stand in respect for you, Liz because you deserve the respect from this room.
A birthing day is a miracle. But adopting a child from miles away is destiny. That’s what brought you two together.”
After a tough start to life, Gisele is thriving and her health is stable, although she still requires a feeding tube, her mum said.
Ms Smith, an aunt to 13 nieces and nephews, told CNN: “(Medics) can’t believe the strides she has made and how healthy and strong she is. Her resilience is inspiring to me and every day I’m amazed by her.”
The nurse said she has never been happier or stronger, and she couldn’t imagine her life without Gisele.
She said in the blog post: “I remember some of the painful pieces at times, but when I look at her I’m so happy I can’t believe I was ever so upset. I can’t remember the hard times because she makes me so happy.”