May 28, 2024

Happy Mother’s Day weekend! This story about life-saving work, fostering, and adoption has been a few years in the making; but it is a perfect one for a Feel-Good Friday that precedes this special day for moms. 

Taylor and Drew Deras were both neo-natal intensive care (NICU) nurses who met on the job at Methodist Women’s Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. Their unique profession and roles bonded them as friends, and that moved quickly into love. Taylor and Drew were married in 2020. In May of 2021, a baby named Ella was born at Methodist, 23 weeks and one day premature. Taylor became a part of the team of nurses that gave Ella round-the-clock care:

“I knew I kind of wanted that challenge as a nurse to be able to take care of her and kind of see where things would go and what she would do,” the 31-year-old recalled to “Good Morning America.” […]

“She was intubated for multiple months at a time,” Taylor Deras said. “She was just very sick. There [were] times where the doctors would tell us, ‘Watch her. I don’t know if she’ll make it through the night tonight.'”

Despite the long odds, Ella overcame multiple health challenges and grew while in the hospital.

“Eventually, she kind of pulled out of it, got better, and started eating from a bottle [and] was on just a little bit of oxygen support,” Taylor Deras said.

The connection between NICU nurses and the children they care for is deep, as they not only maintain the life and health of the child, but they assist parents in the critical nurture and care of their fragile preemies. One of my nieces was born at 26 weeks, a few more weeks than Ella, but still touch and go in terms of survival—and this was back in 1986, when the neonatal care and advances in science were far less than they are today. I remember the NICU nurses would not only take excellent care of my niece, but would help my sister in learning the particular tasks needed, as well as how to feed her. Most importantly, they helped my sister feel less frightened and more confident in attaching to her child, and making the transition to bringing her home less scary. 

They fight hard for the lives of preemies and families, and the relationships with the NICU team often goes beyond the baby’s stay in the hospital. Thanks to the power of social media, NICU nurses are able to stay a part of the child’s life, see their milestones, and watch them grow and thrive. It’s a beautiful, special thing.

Because of the fierce connectedness NICU nurses have with their tiny charges, Taylor Deras kept abreast of Ella’s case. In December 2021, she discovered from the Methodist social workers that Ella had become a ward of the state:

“As she became a ward of the state, I actually turned to Drew and I was like, ‘I really do care for her and I want to bring her home and care for her as our child,'” Taylor Deras said. “So it was, I loved her as my patient, and then once we became foster parents, I loved her as my own child.”

The couple were approved and became Ella’s foster parents from December 2021 to November 2023.

The fact that Taylor already had a special bond with Ella was instrumental in the Deras’ application being expedited. The couple soon moved from that bonded care into absolute love with the little girl:

“As a foster parent, it was like shedding the protective guard against falling in love with someone else’s child. We realized that this child needs us as much as we need her,” Drew shared, describing the profound shift in their hearts.

Ella was finally discharged from the hospital in April of 2022, and the Derases started the work of transitioning from foster care to adoption. A little over a year later, Ella’s adoption was finalized on Nov. 18, 2023, which also happened to be National Adoption Day!

“When the judge said, ‘She is now your child,’ it was … this is what we’ve been praying for and what we’ve been wanting. And it was really like a dream come true,” Taylor Deras said.

“It was even more perfect than you could have imagined,” Drew Deras added. “It’s hard to compare it to anything else. I mean, I’d say like our wedding day is the only one that you could compare it to.”

Ella is now thriving, and her health continues to improve. The Derases say she is a vibrant personality, and at three years old, is walking, talking, and meeting her developmental milestones. Ella will start preschool in the fall.

What a lovely story of redemption. The Derases were able to expand their family, Ella was spared from a grueling life of foster care, and Taylor Deras is now able to pour her beautiful heart of nurture and fierce love into Ella on a permanent basis. It’s a very happy Mother’s Day for them all.