The ‘circle of life’ is so amazing, it’s the name of the a hit song from The Lion King.
But sometimes, that circle is extra special – as Californian nurse Vilma Wong discovered this month.
Wong, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse who has worked at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford for the past 32 years, was reunited with a former NICU patient, Brandon Seminatore.
But far from being the vulnerable infant born at 29 weeks gestation that he once was, Seminatore is now a second-year paediatric doctor completing a Child Neurology residency at Stanford University.
The chance discovery was only made thanks to Wong’s incredible long-term memory which helped her recognise her former patient’s name.
Photos of the reunion were shared on the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford’s Facebook page on August 15.
The comparison of Wong holding baby Seminatore 28 years ago, and now as doctor and nurse, is sure to melt your heart – as it did the internet’s.
Naturally, the post went viral, being liked almost 20 000, and shared 5000, times.
Wong spoke to news website Babble about the incredible events that led to her discovery, explaining that Seminatore had been working on Wong’s medical team when Wong recognised his somewhat uncommon surname.
“I kept asking where he was from and he told me that he was from San Jose, California,” Wong told Babble.
He revealed that he had been a premature baby born at the same hospital, and Wong began to suspect he was the very baby she had cared for almost three decades prior.
So Wong began to ask questions to confirm her instincts. She asked if his dad was a police officer – yes, he was. Then, to Wong’s astonishment, Seminatore asked her if she was ‘Vilma’.
Before starting the job, Seminatore’s mother had instructed him to look for a “Vilma” in the NICU, and he had dismissed her, thinking that the nurse had probably already retired.
He was – happily – wrong.
“I was in shock initially but overjoyed to know that I took care of him almost 30 years ago and now he’s as a paediatric resident to the same population he was part of when he was born,” Wong said.
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The young doctor’s parents were quickly informed, and they managed to find one of the NICU photos from soon after his birth.
“It truly sunk in that I was one of these babies,” Seminatore told Babble.
“I’ve come full-circle and I’m taking care of babies with the nurse that took care of me.”
With nothing but respect for a person so committed to her work, Seminatore added that he hopes to be as committed a healthcare professional as Wong is.
For Wong, it was the most unlikely – but all the more special – circle of life experiences of her career.