Note in mom’s journal connects Knoxville nurse with coworker who cared for her as an infant

Positively Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new nurse at UT Medical Center made a stunning discovery.

She didn’t realize until recently that she had met her boss before. It was 36 years ago when she was a tiny baby fighting for her life in UT’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

A young nurse was there to take care of her, and leave the baby a loving journal entry that she has kept all this time. They work together in UT Medical Center’s Endoscopy Department, making sure patients get the best care possible.

As Nurse Manager, Jo Ellen Moore is Natalie Waddell’s boss and mentor.

Natalie said, “she’s always bubbly and willing to help and willing to answer questions. She’s just a good nurse.”

UT Medical Center has a special place in Natalie’s heart. As a premature newborn in 1984, Natalie spent the first three months of her life in UT’s NICU. Her parents kept a journal for her, and had each nurse who cared for their tiny baby leave a loving note for Natalie.

One of the journal entries was from a nurse named Jo Ellen. The same first name as her boss.

“It was before she was married,” Natalie said, so her maiden name wasn’t even the name I know her as so I had to go and ask her. She looked at me like I was crazy when I said ‘what was your maiden name?’ And she told me and I said, ‘ I think you took care of me.’ “

Jo Ellen said, “yeah, I was like , ‘why do you want to know? I mean, it’s not been that for a long time!”

Natalie showed Jo Ellen the journal.

“She said, ‘this is your handwriting?’ And I said, ‘yes, it is! Oh my gosh I took care of you, you were one of my babies!’ “

It took Jo Ellen back to her time as a young nurse, writing a sweet message for a baby she would never forget.

The message reads, in part: “Natalie, what a big and pretty girl you are getting to be. You weigh 2 pounds and 12 and a half ounces now. I will be happy and sad to see you get big enough to go home. Love you, Jo Ellen Barton.”

Natalie wiped away tears as she said, “I mean, I always knew I wanted to work at UT, not only that I work with somebody who took care of me.”

Jo Ellen simply said, “it’s just amazing, it’s just amazing.”

The two are so grateful to discover this special connection.

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