Meet Mackenzie, the Nurse Who Decided to Adopt One of Her Sick Patients
This is the story of how a special bond formed between Mackenzie and Athena, a baby girl born with several medical conditions, led to a heartwarming chapter in both their lives. This article delves into their extraordinary journey, celebrating the moment when Mackenzie could proudly say she was Athena’s mother, not just through the bond they shared but also legally.
When they first met.
Mackenzie Denich, a NICU nurse at Children’s Nebraska, always harbored dreams of motherhood. Her profession brought her into contact with many children, but a unique bond formed with one particular newborn girl. This connection took a significant turn when Denich’s mother met a couple at church. Their pregnant daughter could not care for her unborn child, and they were seeking someone to adopt the baby.
To that, Denich’s mom quickly said, “Mackenzie will take her,” but she realized the baby’s parents hadn’t even asked her opinion about taking their child. Upon learning about this conversation from her mother, she initially began preparing for the possibility, jotting down a list of baby necessities. However, she soon questioned the likelihood of being chosen—a single woman without prior parenting experience. Denich pushed aside the idea, deeming it unrealistic.
However, fate intervened. On October 11, 2021, while fulfilling her duties at Children’s Nebraska, Denich encountered Athena just four hours after her birth and felt an instant, profound connection. She recalls thinking, “She needs me.”
Athena was born with medical complications.
Despite Athena being born with several medical complications, Denich was primarily concerned with her desire to care for the baby. The following day brought her the opportunity she had been waiting for.
The biological grandmother of Athena approached Denich to ask if she would be interested in adopting Athena, and she immediately accepted the offer. Dr. James Vargo, a specialist in craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgery at Children’s Nebraska, noted the special bond between Denich and Athena, suggesting that it seemed like destiny had played its part.
Denich was able to bring Athena home after three weeks. The infant required surgeries for her cleft lip and palate and her disconnected esophagus. Fortunately, Denich, with her experience caring for children with complex medical needs and being from a family of nurses, was well-prepared for the challenge. Her two brothers and their wives, who are also nurses, were ready to assist with Athena’s care.
Coming from a family where everyone, including her parents and siblings, are nurses, Denich found ample support. Her father, in particular, looked after Athena while Denich was at work. Denich expressed her confidence in her family’s ability to care for Athena, trusting her well-being with each of them.
The so-craved adoption
On July 14, 2023, Denich experienced a milestone moment as she legally adopted Athena. The woman recognized the complex emotions that often accompany the adoption process, blending joy with sadness. She felt thankful for the positive outcome that emerged from a difficult situation.
As she looks to the future, her goal is to provide the best possible care for Athena, focusing on her medical and emotional needs. She was also mindful of the sensitive emotions related to Athena’s separation from her biological mother, even before the adoption was finalized. The courthouse was a scene of support and celebration, with more than 50 friends and family members present when Denich legally became Athena’s mother.
Her goal is to shield Athena from any obstacle life might present.
People frequently inquire about the specific nature of Athena’s condition and why she appears smaller than other children her age. However, her mother, a strong advocate for embracing individual differences, believes the details are unimportant and chooses not to share them.
Athena, equipped with a hearing aid and a feeding tube, also participates in speech and physical therapy. She is currently under the care of a team of 15 medical specialists and has undergone six surgeries to date. Yet, her identity transcends her medical condition. She’s a lively toddler with a love for puppies, coloring, and zoo outings.
Brenda, Denich’s mother, works as a pre-op and PACU nurse at an orthopedic hospital and deeply admires Athena, recognizing her as someone very special. Aside from this, Athena keeps regular contact with her biological grandparents, aunt, cousin, and birth parents, often visiting her grandparents every week.
Denich ensures transparency about Athena’s background at home by displaying photos of her biological family and openly discussing their presence in their lives. Her aim is to prevent Athena from ever feeling surprised by her history, always wanting her to feel loved and valued. Denich is dedicated to showering her daughter with affection, expressing her gratitude for being Athena’s mother regularly.
Adopting kids doesn’t just change someone else’s life — it can also make us live longer, according to a study.