Dr. Kogan-Liberman recommended a battery of tests, including a cholangiogram—an X-ray of the bile ducts. It was there that Thomas met Makin for the first time.
“I was so nervous and sad that day, I didn’t even read her ID card that said Deborah Makin ANA. All I read was the RN part!” said Thomas. “Every visit was difficult and scary. It was so overwhelming, that even now I cannot think about that point. I felt like no one else could understand.”
The diagnosis was biliary atresia, a blockage in the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder, which is a congenital condition, considered a pediatric emergency that needed to be treated right away.
While Elsa was in surgery a few days later, Makin brought the worried parents regular updates from the operating room. When the baby was then moved to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), Makin relaxed the rules and let both parents in to see her.
“I saw how young the baby was, and Aida was sitting there all by herself and I said, ‘I’m bringing your husband so you can be together, ”Makin said. “It doesn’t alleviate all the stress, but at least she’s not alone, and they can lean on each other.”
Makin’s kindness and care, and that of her entire CHAM postanesthesia care unit (PACU), had a profound effect on Thomas.
“It was so painful,” Thomas said. “My husband is my strong rock, and I really needed him there with me. Deborah understood that, and she made sure I wasn’t alone.”
Makin, who has nearly 37 years’ experience in nursing, didn’t know initially that Thomas was also a Montefiore Einstein nurse. She just saw a mother in need of comfort.
“I could see she was mostly holding it together, but deep down, I knew she was really a bag of noodles,” Makin said. “I didn’t need to say anything to her; I just gave her a big hug. Parents need hope that it’s going to be OK, even when it’s not. I see parents dealing with terrible things, and I just have to care for them, too.”
When Thomas and her husband tested positive for COVID-19 days after Elsa’s surgery, Makin stepped up as a surrogate parent, watching over and caring for little Elsa, who was still in the PICU. Makin and her team, as well as a host of Thomas’ nurse colleagues, made sure the baby had someone with her 24 hours a day.
“We need more people like Deborah Makin,” Thomas said. “She is exceptional. Deb made those days less scary and gave us hope. My husband even told her that if he had met her 10 years ago, he would have been inspired to be a nurse.”
Today, thanks to the swift diagnosis and intervention by Dr. Kogan-Liberman, Dominique M. Jan, MD, PhD, Chief, Pediatric Surgery, Director, Pediatric Transplantation Surgery, Montefiore Einstein, and Professor, Surgery, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the whole liver team, Elsa is healthy and growing. She is continuing treatment, with the expectation that she may need a liver transplant in the future.
“I never thought I would be able to smile again,” Thomas said. “But now I’m laughing with my baby and playing with my baby.”