It was a rainy night. The hospital was packed and nurse Jeannie Joseph was on duty. It was the usual busy day and nothing could predict what she’d see that night.
A teen boy walked into the hospital holding a shoebox. When the nurse opened it, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Something awful had happened. How can the boy have that?
Michael and Cherish were in the same high school class. She was 13 years old, he was 15. They were both great students with great grades. They were both involved in extracurricular activities and playing sports.
None of them could predict how their destinies would cross paths and change their lives forever, before even having a chance to finish high school. Life’s challenges don’t wait for anyone.
Michael and Cherish were introduced by a common friend and fell in love with each other on the spot. They had a lot of things in common and started to hang out more and more.
Their love was innocent and their intentions were pure. They were having the imet of their lives, but soon a terrible thing would challenge their love.
The young couple’s love developed into something intense. Although young and with a big future ahead, they were committed to their love and they were thinking of building a life together.
But would they really manage to stay together through everything? Would their promises be kept when they would go through the biggest challenge of their lives?
Eventually, Cherish’s mother found out about her relationship with Michael and she opposed it immediately. Her mother believed that her daughter was too young to have a boyfriend.
This was bad news for the couple, as in the end, Cherish’s mother forbade her to date Michael and tried to put an end to their relationship. Would this be the end of their love?
Her mom’s disapproval wasn’t enough to stop her from seeing her boyfriend. On the contrary, their love grew even stronger. Although she loved her mother, she couldn’t give up on Michael.
They continued to date but in secret. Young and carefree, they continued to pursue their love despite Cherish’s mom objecting to it. What could happen if her mom found out though?
Michael couldn’t take it any longer. He didn’t want to put up with the secrecy and all the hiding anymore. He proposed to Cherish to run away together and build a new life far away.
But what would come next is not something they could run from. At least not easily. What should they do?
Michael’s reason for wanting to run away was also his bad situation at home. He didn’t get along with his father and he thought about leaving home before. This made him spend nights at his friend’s house on more than one occasion.
However, they both decided to stay and continue their studies, while coming up with a better plan for the future. He was committed to following Cherish to the end of the world and back. Their relationship lasted for two years. When Michael received the most heart wrenching call of his life, his relationship with Cherish would be put to the most difficult test ever.
One fateful day while in school, Cherish started to feel the worst pain ever. She began experiencing severe stomach cramps at the end of the school day, so she hurried home. She locked herself in her bedroom and quietly whimpered until she finally mustered the courage to call her boyfriend.
When he finally arrived and saw Cherish’s state, he started trembling and almost passed out. He had no idea what to do next.
It didn’t take long before he took off, quickly leaving his girlfriend behind. He jumped out her window and made his way to the nearest hospital to ask for help.
He walked eight miles on a cold rainy night with a clear goal in his mind: to reach his destination. When he finally made it, he was terrified, not knowing what would happen to him or his girlfriend.
Neonatal nurse Jeannie Joseph was on her usual shift at SwedishAmerican hospital in Rockford, Illinois, when something startled her.
After the longest walk in his life, a crying teenage boy walked into the hospital holding nothing but a shoebox. Jeannie approached him to ask if he needed help. But when he lifted the lid to reveal the box’s contents, her eyes grew wide.
Nurse Joseph couldn’t believe her eyes. Inside the box the teenage boy was holding was a tiny infant, dressed in a doll’s onesie and wrapped in a dishtowel.
Nurse Joseph rushed the baby to the special care nursery, but time wasn’t on their side. The tiny baby, born prematurely, was immediately admitted to the NICU for treatment. .
Michael watched as the baby was rushed into isolation. The medical staffs’ first priority was to get him warm.
Nurse Joseph told the teen that he didn’t have to give them his or his partner’s name, but any information on the circumstances of the baby’s birth would help them. With a body temperature of just 94.7, the baby was fighting for his life.
The infant was born six weeks premature and lacked the warmth and nutrients necessary to survive. Infants so young lack the fat needed to raise their body temperature, so time was of the essence.
Nurse Joseph and the medical staff treated him for hypothermia, dehydration, and an infection from the cut on his umbilical cord – which had been cut with kitchen scissors.
Dr. Martin Anyebuno, a MEDNAX-affiliated neonatologist at SwedishAmerican, treated the baby that night. The baby was too young to regulate his own blood sugar or even breathe on his own.
Nevertheless, this baby was a little fighter. “This is one of the cases I won’t forget,” Dr. Anyebuno said. “There was someone looking down on him.”
The medical staff at SwedishAmerican hospital worked tirelessly that night and, thankfully, the baby’s condition was finally stable. Nurse Joseph approached Michael, who had been sobbing uncontrollably for the last three hours, to give him the news.
She told him that if he gave the infant up there and then, she couldn’t legally give him updates on his baby’s progress. What did he want to do?
Once the baby was stable, Michael had a choice to make. Nurse Joseph told him he could either relinquish the baby or she could give him a pair of parental bracelets.
The bracelets would give him the right to see his baby again, and it would give him some time to speak to his partner to weigh their options.
Michael needed to know what happened to his baby and if he would be okay. Although he was being taken care of, he couldn’t bring himself to just leave him there.
He decided to take the parental bracelets and wait so he could buy some time. The next day, the baby had another visitor. Michael never expected this to happen.
It didn’t take long for nurse Joseph to realize that the parents of the baby were scared, not cruel. There was a note inside the shoebox, written by Cherish.
It read: “We love you, we are just not able to raise you. We want his name to be Allen Corey and we will hope to be able to see you again. God will be watching over you.” Now, she found herself face-to-face with the baby’s mother.
The nurse first saw the terrified mother the day after baby Allen was stabilized. The girl walked into the nursery, holding her head down in shame.
She just wanted to see the little one before relinquishing him under the state’s Safe Haven law. But once she held him, everything changed. The two connected, and thanks to nurse Joseph, baby Allen’s story changed dramatically.
Nurse Joseph comforted the scared girl and promised that she’d do everything she could to take care of the tiny baby. She also praised her for doing the right thing.
The Safe Haven law of 2001 was passed precisely for situations like this – it decriminalized infant abandonment and provided “safe havens” for struggling mothers to relinquish their babies, who are later put up for adoption. But nobody expected this.
Cherish fell in love with her baby immediately, but she was just 15 – practically a baby herself. She coudn’t stop crying whenever she thought about what would happen when she told her grandparents – whom she lived with – and her mom what she’d done.
Nurse Joseph was there for her every step of the way. She arranged for Cherish to speak to hospital officials about open aoption and helped her with a plan.
While Cherish explored her options and open adoption – which would allow her to help choose potential parents for baby Allen – she came up with a secret daily routine.
Every morning, her grandfather dropped her at school. She’d secretly leave and take a city bus to the hospital to see and feed her baby. She secretly pumped milk for Allen every night and hid it in her grandparents’ basement refrigerator. But how long could this go on for?
Cherish opened up to nurse Joseph during her secret visits to the hospital. She explained her fears about her mother and grandparents finding out about the baby.
She felt so ashamed, and she also worried about having to give up on school and her dreams because of her teen pregnancy. Cherish and nurse Joseph crew close during those weeks, but they couldn’t hide the truth forever.
According to Cherish, nurse Joseph “was not judgmental at all, just very nurturing and motherly. She encouraged me to tell my grandparents, but she didn’t talk to me like I was just some stupid teenager. She talked to me like I was a person.”
Nurse Joseph gave Cherish all the support she could, but she also tried to explain that she’d have to tell her mom and grandparents about the baby eventually.
After a month at the hospital, it was almost time for baby Allen to be discharged. Terrified, Cherish brought her mother to the hospital without any explanation as to why.
Standing in front of Allen’s incubator, Cherish froze up and her mother’s face paled. She had no idea how her mother was going to react.
Cherish’s mom reacted with pure love and without judgement. She immediately wanted to hold her tiny grandson. Her love for Cherish was unconditional.
She never showed any anger and was heartbroken that her daughter hadn’t come to her and had gone through this all alone. She was devastated that her daughter had kept such a big secret for so long.
Allen was the first baby to ever be received under the new Safe Haven law. Today, 120 babies have been received and put up for adoption in Illinois under the same law. Most of them are given up by their mothers at hospitals..
Nurse Joseph, who by then had been a neonatal nurse for more than ten years, knew of the new law, but had never seen anyone acting on it.
Cherish’s mother was understanding of her situation because she had also had Cherish when she was just a teen. Cherish’s mom immediately wanted to hold Allen, and Cherish’s grandmother had the same reaction a few hours later.
Then, they came up with a plan as a family. They agreed that Cherish’s grandparents and mother would look after Allen until Cherish graduated.
One day, after many years, nurse Joseph received a message on Facebook. It was from Cherish, now a 29-year-old mother of three who lives in Arizona working as a law clerk. The two hadn’t spoken for many years.
But neither had forgotten each other. And Cherish expressed her desire to rekindle their old friendship. And of course, Jeannie was more than delighted to oblige! The ladies haven’t yet had a chance to reunite face-to-face, but now they keep in touch online every day.