NICU Nurse Returns to Her Beginnings

About 27 years ago, Katelyn Gruver first entered the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at West Penn Hospital, as a newborn baby. Today, she works there as a nurse -- living proof that Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) nurses can save young lives and inspire patients to give back.

Katelyn’s childhood experiences with illness and medicine have given her strong dedication to nursing and helping others.

A difficult start

Katelyn was born on April 14, 1989, at 30 weeks gestation and 4 pounds, 14 ounces. Additional complications included brain swelling and multiple seizures. These are frightening conditions, especially for preemies. Katelyn spent several weeks in the NICU at West Penn Hospital. The doctors and her parents worried that her development could be delayed. Fortunately, Katelyn thrived and had a normal, happy childhood with her two sisters.

Experimental surgery

At age seven, Katelyn was diagnosed with Moyamoya, a disease that constricts the carotid arteries. She had 95 percent blockage in her left carotid artery and 85 percent blockage in her right.

There were few treatment options available. Then Katelyn’s parents found a doctor who was doing experimental surgeries. This doctor constructed new blood vessels and attached them to the surface of Katelyn’s brain. At the time, the surgery had about a 50 percent success rate. Katelyn had months of follow-up MRIs, but eventually made a full recovery.

Finding gratitude in giving back

Today, Katelyn is a healthy young woman dedicated to offering the very same care to today’s NICU patients that she herself needed. She studied nursing at Allegheny Valley Hospital-Citizens School of Nursing, graduating in 2013, and now finds gratitude in helping babies and their families in the West Penn Hospital NICU.

She also has taken two mission trips, joining medical professions to bring much-needed medical services to residents of Guatemala and Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic. These are gratifying experiences for Katelyn, who continues to make a positive difference in countless lives through her work.

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