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Nurse helps siblings at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital meet for the first time

Thanks to the efforts of a hard-working nurse, sisters Emmah and Corah got to meet for the first time—just one day before newborn Corah received a crucial heart surgery.
Parents Chelsee and Jeremy Ohlquist pose with siblings Emmah (center), Corah (bottom) and Xander (left) at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. Emmah is being treated for cancer, while Corah underwent heart surgery shortly after her birth.

One of the sweetest moments parents experience after the birth of a new child is watching the first meeting between siblings.

But introducing newborn Corah to her 2-year-old sibling Emmah turned out to be a complicated process for parents Chelsee and Jeremy Ohlquist.

Immediately after her birth on June 26, 2017, at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, Corah was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) due to a complex congenital heart condition. The condition, heterotaxy syndrome with atrioventricular canal defect and pulmonary atresia, required that she have neonatal heart surgery—a procedure that was scheduled to occur 10 days later.

At the same time, Corah’s big sister Emmah was also receiving treatment at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital for neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that arises from the cells of the sympathetic nervous system of infants and children. Emmah was scheduled to receive her final immunotherapy treatment the same week Corah would have her surgery.

Because both girls had complex health needs and weakened immune systems, they were unable to meet each other right away, even though they were staying on different floors of the same hospital.

Learn more about our nationally recognized neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

That is, until University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital Nurse Jill Lebrun, RN, navigated the complex hospital system to help arrange a meeting for the sisters and 6-year-old big brother Xander, who met Corah already, the day before Corah’s surgery.

“Everyone had already met Corah, so we were all on cloud nine,” says mom Chelsee of the meeting.   “Emmah was shaking and beyond overjoyed, she was the one who was very into my pregnancy, always telling people there was a baby in my belly. It was wonderful to see the girls together.”

The family, from International Falls, Minn., is currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis while the girls continue to receive care.