BOISE -- Just about all of us know someone who has spent time in a hospital.

It can be a very scary time, especially if that person is a baby.

In the NICU I've been here right at 30 years, said Linda Smith.

How long you been doing this? About three years, said Lena Pascual.

This will be my 32nd year, said Molly Swope.

Those are the nurses in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at St. Luke's Children's Hospital in Boise.

For 12 hours a day these nurses watch over and care for the most vulnerable children. Right now, about 120 NICU nurses take care of 39 babies.

Babies like Dakota who has low blood sugar. He's getting the help he needs, said Dakota's mom, Lacy Slyter.

For parents like Slyter having a child in the NICU is difficult. When your child needs, um, medical attention, you just, it's scary, said a tearful Slyter.

It's difficult to find words to express the value of the nurses. They're all angels here. They really are, said Slyter.

Because having a child here is not easy. Unknown, I think, is probably the hardest thing for people, said Smith.

In 2010, 822 babies entered the St. Luke's NICU which is about the average for this major children's hospital.

You're right, we do have a lot of babies going through here, said Smith. In 30 years, it's possible Smith has seen over 20,000 babies, I think I've seen a lot.

Smith remembers a baby born in the 1980's with a congenital heart defect. At that time there wasn't technology to save the newborn's life. So the parents went home, left the baby, and never came back.

I remember rocking that little baby and just holding him and hoping that if I ever had to leave my baby that somebody would do it for him, said Smith.

Each nurse have seen their own share of tragedy and death.

I personally have been at the bedside when we've removed life support six times, said Pascual.

For Swope that number is closer to 50. One of them, a little girl, about a month old, had an infection that spread rapidly.

One shift she was doing really well, the next shift she was dying, and her mom was holding her while she was dying, said Swope.

But experiences like these, the ones you never want to see, don't happen that often at St. Luke's. In 2010,15 of the 822 babies in this NICU never went home.

Anytime a baby dies, it's very sad because it's supposed to be the beginning and a happy time, and sometimes it's not, said Smith.

But 98 percent of the time these nurses see happy endings. Miracles happen every day. It's just really amazing, said Smith.

One miracle happened a few years ago for Pascual who cared for a mom and her little boy.

He would pull his breathing tube out so often. We would stand by his bed just waiting for it to happen. He had the most nimble fingers, said Pascual.

For the first two months of his life, his mother couldn't hold him.

He'd have this smirk on his face, and I remember it was right around Mother's Day, and he was really really sick, said Pascual.

So Pascual and another nurse made it a goal to get that baby in his mother's arms by Mother's Day.

And sure enough, on Mother's Day that first time that mom got to hold that baby, it was because we made it happen, said Pascual.

We're all here for the same reason, to help these babies and have them have the best start in life, said Swope.

St. Luke's is hoping to expand the hospital and make the Children's Hospital it's own building. Doing so would make it easier for families who have babies in the NICU.

Read or Share this story: