Yvonne Renick, RN, BSN, has been a nurse on the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Cardiac Intensive Care Unit for three years. Renick had originally gone to school to be a psychologist but later realized pediatric nursing was her true calling, and so she went back to school and followed her father, grandfather and uncles, who all have careers in medicine. She shares the story of one special patient who has spent more days in the hospital than home during his first year of life. It’s little ones like Oakes, who turned 1-year-old on March 10, and his family who make Renick sure she made the right decision to become a nurse.

Working at St. Louis Children’s Hospital has been my dream job, and I’ve never looked back.

I met Oakes, who was born with a heart defect, right after he was born. Within days of his birth, he had his first heart surgery. In fact, he has only been home several weeks of his life so far.

Oakes also needed a double lung transplant and went home for 36 hours in July last year before his family got the call to come back to the hospital so he could get his lungs.

He has been through so much. He’s grown up in front of all of our eyes. I feel very lucky to have had the privilege of taking care of such an incredible little boy for the past year. The CICU has been his home away from home and he and his family have become a part of our CICU family now. Even when I’m not taking care of him I go in his room to get a smile, read him a book or just give him a kiss.

I can’t say enough about his family. They are amazing. They wanted to leave a footprint or way to honor Oakes, and so they started the Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation. They’ve had several events to raise money and have helped many families with children with congenital heart defects in the CICU. They are both an inspiration to all of us here, and they are always thinking of others.

Oakes is such a special little boy, and he’s really grown up around me. For a long time, we had to wear masks and gowns when we were with him. Now, when he hears my voice and sees my eyes, he looks around and really does recognize me. I know I can always get a smile from him to brighten my day.

One of my favorite moments with him was when he had a play date with his sister, Isla, who is just 2 years old. Seeing them together brought tears to my eyes and reminded me again why I do this. It’s to see kids be kids even when things are so challenging around them.

I learn new things here at Children’s every day.

For more information about Oakes, his family and the Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation, visit http://mightyoakes.org/.