By Alyson Ward
When Georganne McClain was born, her mother was afraid to hold her.
She didn’t want to get too attached. The baby girl, born in September 1991, was alarmingly premature – born at 26 weeks, Georganne weighed just more than a pound.
Brinda McClain had lost a premature baby before. She worried that if she bonded with this tiny infant, she would face having to say goodbye to yet another child.
“I didn’t even want to look at her,” Brinda recalled. “I was so distraught.”
Her daughter was fighting for life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at what was then called Hermann Hospital, where Brinda had been flown by helicopter from Nacogdoches. When Georganne survived the first few days, her mother gathered up the courage to ask: “What are our chances?”
Georganne’s medical team was startled to hear Brinda had any doubts. “They said, ‘Oh, she’s strong. She’s going to be fine,’” she recalls.
And she was.
Georganne spent three months in the Hermann NICU and weighed nearly 4 pounds when she left. She grew up in Nacogdoches, a healthy, active girl. She learned to ride horses and trained for rodeo events. But her time in the NICU stayed with her and it drew her back.
McClain returned to Memorial Hermann in 2017 to be a nurse in the same place where she started her life: the NICU at what is now called Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. Today, she is helping premature babies fight through their early days and get a chance at life.
The Miracle Baby Chooses a Nursing Career
Growing up, McClain knew the value of nurses who care for preemies. Her parents called her a “miracle baby.” By high school she wanted to be a nurse, but she planned to do something she considered more exciting than NICU work – the emergency room, maybe, or trauma care.
McClain graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University’s nursing school in 2015 and went to work as a medical-surgical nurse in nearby Lufkin.
About a year later, she moved to Lubbock to be a NICU nurse at Covenant Children’s Hospital. “It was overwhelming, seeing these tiny babies and realizing what they’re going through, what their families are going through,” she said.
She felt the weight of responsibility on her shoulders: “OK, this is what I’m getting into. These tiny humans, these lives I’m going to have to save every day and lift these parents up every day. It was a lot to handle those first few months.”
McClain didn’t fall in love with NICU nursing until the first time she met a “26-weeker,” who was born as early as she had been.
“I remember looking at the baby and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this was me,’” she said. “This baby was around a pound, and this is what my parents had seen when I was born.”
That’s when she truly understood what her parents had gone through – and what she herself had survived.
Joining the NICU Team at Memorial Hermann
In 2017, she applied to be a NICU nurse at Memorial Hermann.
Memorial Hermann was “my dream job, essentially,” McClain said. “I knew I wanted to work here. I knew I wanted to be back in the NICU that had given me an opportunity at life.”
When McClain called her mom to tell her she got the job, “I wasn’t the one crying – she was the one crying at the other end of the phone,” she said. “It was cool to have that experience with her – just hearing her voice, how excited she was for me to be back in a place that was special to her and also to me.”
Then they made a discovery that made her new job seem like fate: Dr. Amir Khan, medical director of the NICU, Neonatal Transport and Children’s Respiratory Care at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, was a pediatric resident in 1991 and had signed Georganne McClain’s discharge papers. Now, the director of the Division of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) was head of the unit where she worked.
Brinda McClain still gets emotional when she tells her daughter’s story. “I think it’s a great thing for her to have come a full circle,” she said. “I’m very proud of her.”
Confident She’s in the Right Place
Four years into her career, Georganne has learned that nursing is difficult work and requires both strength and sacrifice. But she knows she is in the right place.
“My mom had all these stories about how wonderful the nurses were and how much they helped her out,” she said. “Being back here and working here as a nurse just seems like the perfect fit, and definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made.”
Memorial Hermann strives to ensure we do all we can to foster the personal and professional growth of all employees, including our nurses. During National Nurses Week, Memorial Hermann is highlighting its commitment to #RaisingNurses – inspiring our caregivers to go above and beyond, encouraging interest in the nursing profession, fostering a culture that helps nurses grow professionally and celebrating the remarkable work they do each and every day. To learn more about nursing careers at Memorial Hermann, click here