Adelphi graduate Vanessa Malliloo is a nurse working at the very same neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) unit she was rushed to moments after being born.

Adelphi nursing graduate Vanessa Mallilo ’15 got an earlier start in this life than most people. Much earlier. She was a micropreemie, born at just 24 weeks and weighing only 1 pound, 8 ounces.

Today, she’s a nurse working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at New York-Presbyterian Queens—the very same unit she was rushed to moments after being born.

It was a uniquely circular path, one made possible by the powerful experiences she gained inside and outside the classroom as a nursing student at Adelphi.

“I always knew that I wanted to be a nurse, so I chose to go to Adelphi because I knew I would receive the best nursing education there,” she said. “I got that great education, and I think it made me a great nurse.”

Mallilo’s desire to go into nursing was no surprise given the crucial role nurses played in saving her life. They helped her survive the critical first few days and the threats that followed, including bleeding at the base of her brain that could have caused cerebral palsy and retinal scarring that might have led to blindness. All in all, she spent 81 days in the NICU at New York-Presbyterian and then at Weill Cornell Medicine, where she was transferred for the specialized care it provided.

Nurses were a strong presence in Mallilo’s life for the next two years as well, as her parents regularly brought her to the hospital for visits with specialists. Two of the nurses from the NICU also became close family friends.

Mallilo cemented her plans to become a nurse in high school while volunteering at New York-Presbyterian Queens. It was then on to Adelphi and nursing lectures, lab simulations, projects with other students and clinical experience.

“I learned so much in four years,” she said, “and I would say it was my clinicals that really prepared me for what being a nurse is like. Caring for patients in the most vulnerable times showed me how to be compassionate, how to have a healing touch and how talking with patients can make them feel so good. I’ll never forget the patients I met along the way.”

The highlight of her experience at Adelphi, though, was her capstone project in the NICU at North Shore University Hospital in nearby Manhasset.

“I knew I wanted to work in the NICU because of my background,” she said. “I spent about six weeks learning from a preceptor and caring for the smallest, most vulnerable babies. It was something I’d never done before, and I was surprised how comfortable I became with it. The experience really enhanced my love for NICU nursing and made me sure that was what I wanted to do once I graduated.”

She also knew exactly which NICU she wanted to work in, and when she went in for her interview at New York-Presbyterian Queens, she got one of those signs that appear to people who are fulfilling their destiny. The nurse who interviewed her was the same one who had admitted her to the NICU when she was born.

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