NICU nurse adopts 14-year-old patient who gave birth to triplets alone

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.

While Shariya was initially reluctant to confide in Katrina about her personal life, the pair eventually bonded after the nurse revealed that she too had been a teen mother, giving birth to a son at 16 who she had to give up for adoption.

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.

Katrina gave Shariya her phone number, adding: “I said, ‘If you need anything, you just call me. If you need to talk, or you have a question, I’m here.’”
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.

Katrina revealed that a social worker had told her that Shariya and her children were being removed from their home and had told her they wanted to live with her – and despite the difficulty of welcoming four people into her home, the nurse agreed.

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.”

Katrina – who was a single mother of five children, three of whom still lived at home – immediately took action to become a certified foster parent by taking the necessary classes, and kind friends and relatives donated baby items such as clothes, cribs, and strollers, ready for her new arrivals.
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.

Katrina officially adopted Shariya last February after fostering her and her triplets for 668 days and set up a GoFundMe to build up a “financial cushion” for their future, which has almost doubled its $20,000 target at the time of writing.
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.”

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