OKLAHOMA CITY – This Christmas Eve, there are parents who have been given the ultimate gift.
They are bringing their babies home after a perilous journey.
One Oklahoma woman has dedicated herself to those babies who start their lives in the NICU.
For nurse Marie Connoly, it’s been her calling for 35 years.
“It takes a special person to work in the NICU with sick babies,” said Judy Perry. “And Marie is there to hold a hand, whether it’s the family or the nurse taking care of the baby.”
Marie’s patients are tiny souls, in bodies unprepared to support them.
Baby Norah was born at 26 weeks, barely weighing a pound.
“She’s a fiesty little fighter and we’re very proud of her,” said Norah’s mother, Rachel Rieg.
Rachel and Norah’s father, BJ Rieg, have experienced the terror of Norah’s setbacks and the joys of her progress.
“Babies go up and down every day. Sometimes it’s shift to shift, sometimes it’s hour to hour. You just don’t know. But Marie has just been amazing,” said Rachel.
Nurse Marie Connoly made a quilt and bedding for Norah during her stay.
“The money has come straight out of her pockets. No questions asked. It’s just something that she gives back all the time,” said Judy Perry.
In Marie’s 35 years of nursing, doctors have found that preemies do better when it’s quiet and darker, much like the womb.
Marie’s quilts serve as both a light and noise barrier.
She has sewn hundreds of pieces of bedding for premature babies over the years.
Her dedication to these patients and giving heart is why Marie is this week’s Pay It 4ward recipient.
Watch the video above to see her reaction to the award.