Emma Mercier decided she wanted to be a nurse at the age of 12. That was the year her older brother, Justin, passed away from congestive heart failure at age 22.
"I grew up watching my mom manage his medications and taking his blood pressure at home, and started helping with nursing care from a young age," she says. "I was used to my brother's scars and heart-related problems, so those things never phased me."
Justin was born in 1983 with complex heart problems, including transposition of the great arteries, a hypoplastic right ventricle, severe peripheral pulmonary stenosis, tricuspid atresia, an atrial septal defect (ASD) and a ventricular septal defect (VSD). He was treated at Boston Children's Hospital by cardiologist, Dr. Michael Freed, and cardiac surgeon, Dr. John Mayer. Because Justin's problems were so complex, the road was never easy, but he always lived his life to the fullest.
"Justin was medically managed until he was 15," says Emma. "He wasn't doing great, so he got a central shunt to try to control his pulmonary blood flow, but went into heart failure shortly thereafter. He was put on the list for a heart transplant, and waited 14 days before receiving a new heart in January of 1999."
When he went into heart failure again in 2005 and was told he needed another heart transplant, he decided he didn't want it. "He told them to give the heart to a kid who has a full life to live; he had done everything he wanted to do," says Emma. Justin passed away on Christmas Day 2005.
As a nurse in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU), Emma enjoys working where her brother once spent so much time.
She says it's a privilege to work alongside so many of the nurses and doctors who cared for him. "I enjoy watching them take such great care of patients, and knowing Justin also had that same amazing care."
Emma's personal history with the CICU helps her relate to the families she now works with. "When Justin was sick, it was a really hard time for us, so if I feel like I understand what parents and siblings are going through."
For Emma, caring for kids in the CICU is more than just a job. "I love developing relationships with families and helping them move along to a healthier point — it's the best feeling in the world."