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NICU nurse learns sign language to communicate with family

Posted: 11:33 AM, Jun 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-03 14:34:41-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — For parents of newborns, there may be no more vulnerable place than the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“It’s something that a lot of people aren’t comfortable with,” said Johanna Gurr, nurse at Mountain View Hospital.

“When parents see their babies for the first time, it’s very intimidating and they get really scared.”

Gurr understands the fear. Before she was a NICU nurse, she was a NICU parent - her daughter’s first days of life guided her own.

“When I first became a nurse, I really didn’t know what area of nursing I wanted to be in and then I had my own NICU baby and instantly I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” said Gurr.

“After those nurses cared for my daughter, I knew this is where I needed to be.”

And the NICU is where she’s been for more than a decade - doing everything she can to pay forward the kindness her daughter’s nurses had for her, for people like Rosemarie Andaya.

Her daughter Alita was born premature, so tiny she couldn’t be held until several days after birth.

“I was crying so much,” said Andaya. “I was really concerned about her. I was worried so much.”

The new parents worry was compounded by a communication barrier. Both Rosemarie and her husband are hearing impaired.

“I came into the room and introduced myself the best way I knew how in sign and I may have stumbled a little bit but they smiled and instantly that fear was gone and we just kind of giggled at my feeble attempts,” said Gurr, of her first time meeting the Andaya family.

As it turns out, Johanna’s attempts weren’t entirely feeble. Her daughter had recently been learning to sign and when the nurse found out about the Andaya family, she jumped at the chance to learn too.

“I just wanted to show them you know, this is scary and I can’t even imagine how much scarier it would be if you had a difficulty communicating so that’s why I did it,” said Gurr.

Although Johanna may not be fluent in sign language, her efforts went far beyond opening up a line of communication.

She provided comfort and care to a family when they needed it most.

“We just kept seeing her grow and Johanna just talked to us and she told us everything. She explained everything to us and really, it warmed our heart,” said Andaya.

What Johanna did for the Andaya family and what she does each and every day makes her our Vegas Stronger Champion.

The Vegas Stronger Champions series is sponsored by Findlay Automotive.