A heart-warming reunion at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford between neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse Vilma Wong and one of her former patients has gone viral! CBS This Morning featured the story of Vilma’s chance encounter with her former patient, 28 years later.
Brandon Seminatore, MD, was born at Stanford 28 years ago at just 29-weeks gestation, and was cared for in the NICU for over a month before his parents were able to bring him home to San Jose. During that time, they developed a close relationship with his primary care nurse, Vilma Wong.
Fast forward nearly 30 years: Brandon is healthy and is currently a second year pediatric neurology resident at Packard Children’s. During his morning rounds on the NICU earlier this month, Vilma recognized his name—what a memory! We posted their story on social media and it has reached more than a million people, in addition to being featured on CBS and in other media.
Vilma recounts the moment they reunited:
Brandon was on my team and taking care of one of my patients. I asked who he was and his last name sounded very familiar. I kept asking questions, like where he was from and he told me he was from San Jose, and that as a matter of fact, he was a premature baby born at our hospital. I then got very suspicious because I remember being the primary nurse to a baby with the same last name. To confirm my suspicion, I asked him if his dad was a police officer. And there was a big silence. Then he asked me if I was Vilma. I said yes!
When Brandon began his residency at Packard Children’s, his mother asked him to look for nurse Vilma in the NICU. Assuming she had retired by now, he didn’t think much more of it. But soon that all changed.
“Meeting Vilma was a surreal experience,” Brandon said. “When Vilma recognized my name, it truly sunk in that I was one of these babies. I’ve come full-circle and I’m taking care of babies with the nurse that took care of me.”
Brandon’s parents were thrilled to hear about their reunion, and shared the picture they had of Vilma holding him on her lap, which they’ve kept all these years.
“It’s amazing that he did come full circle,” Brandon’s mother, Laura Seminatore, told CBS. “I’m hoping that he will make an impact on future families the way that Vilma has made an impact on our family.”
Vilma says she was in shock when she and Brandon initially reunited. “But I also felt overjoyed to know that I took care of him almost 30 years ago and now he’s a pediatric resident to the same population he was part of when he was born,” Vilma said. “It feels amazing. I can’t describe it. It’s just this deep joy and happiness,” she told CBS.
“Meeting Vilma showed me the dedication and love she has for her career,” Brandon said. “She cares deeply for her patients, to the point that she was able to remember a patient’s name almost three decades later. Not all of us will get the chance to see our patients grow up, and I was so happy to be able to share that moment with her.”
Vilma has been a nurse in the NICU at Packard Children’s for 32 years. NICU nurses, who provide so much of the hands-on care of some of the hospital’s most fragile patients, wear many hats and deal with high-stress situations on a daily basis. “Although it is a very challenging profession, being a NICU nurse is also very rewarding,” Vilma said. “I consider myself very lucky to be in a profession that I love, and to make a difference in somebody’s life.”
Reflecting on the bond they share, Brandon echoed Vilma’s sentiments:
We all try to give our patients the best chance to grow up happy and healthy. This story is for families with children who have had a rough start in life. I want to give them hope.