There are certain patients in Deb Bush’s nursing career she will never forget.
Ava Bronkema is one of them.
Born weighing only 4 pounds, struggling with in-utero drug exposure, Ava made a lasting impression on Bush’s heart.
Foster parents Brent and Tamie Bronkema of Cadillac, Michigan, took Ava in when she was a baby and eventually adopted her. She’s an integral part of their family of 10.
Recently, Brent brought Ava back to Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital, where she entered the world eight years ago to an uncertain future.
Bush cherished the reunion.
“She thanked me three or four times for taking such good care of her when she was a baby,” Bush said. “I don’t often get to follow up with a family if they’ve adopted a baby, so I was really pleased Brent took time out of his day to stop in. She’s doing great.”
Ava said it was sad they had to wait so long to reunite, but was happy for the opportunity.
“It was pretty cool meeting her,” she said of Bush. “I wish I could have met the other nurse that rocked me.”
Brent and Tamie have adopted five of their eight children. They had already adopted Ava’s half-sibling, Makayla, two years before Ava was born.
Brent said he was sitting in a deer blind on Nov. 15, 2007, when the Department of Human Services called the family to let them know they had a baby available for foster care.
“The Department said they were unsure of Ava’s current and future medical issues due to the circumstances of her birth, and that we needed to take some time and decide if we would be willing to take her,” Brent recalled. “My wife said, ‘It does not matter … God does not create accidents. We’re taking her. We already have her sister.’”
Brent jumped out of his deer blind and headed home where he and Tamie made the call to DHS saying they would be happy to care for this tiny human being who would eventually become their daughter.
The nurses at Big Rapids Hospital taught Brent and Tamie how to care for little Ava, which Brent said gave them confidence to work through the baby’s issues together.
“They informed us how to handle all the different situations,” Brent said. “The birth mom, we’re so thankful she chose life.”
And what a tiny life it was.
“When we took her home she was 4 pounds, 3 ounces,” Tamie said. “She fit in the palm of our hands, literally. Her feet didn’t even go up to our elbows.”
Tamie said her biological babies weighed almost 9 pounds at birth.
“I had never seen a baby this small close up,” Tamie said. “The nurses were very helpful. Deb, especially. She gave us instructions on how to take care of her, what to do if she were to choke or if she wasn’t breathing properly. I think that was really an important part of her success. I always knew if I ran into any situations, I could just call down there.”
Flash forward eight years and Ava is big, strong and healthy. She loves horses, swimming, bike riding, coloring and crafts. She also loves history, although she doesn’t focus on her own.
She knows about her birth mom, and prays for her every day, according to Tamie. She apparently has no residual effects from her frightening entrance into the world.
“She honestly has been the healthiest kid we’ve had,” Tamie said. “She’s doing really great. She is in really good shape. She weighs as much and is as tall as her biological half-sibling, who is 10. Her life is truly a miracle and she is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.”
Tamie said she wishes she could have been part of the Big Rapids Hospital reunion, but someone had to stay home with the rest of the kids.
“I was super happy to hear that Deb was still working there,” Tamie said. “Ava is still talking about it. She said to me, ‘Can you believe I got to meet the lady who rocked me in the hospital?’”
Bush felt just as lucky. Brent gave Bush a photo of her with Ava when she was a baby, and then took one during their reunion, which he sent to her.
“She’s a beautiful little girl,” Bush said. “She’s so polite. We only had a few minutes together, but she seems really well adjusted, happy and loving.”