Amanda Scarpinati has held on to this photo, of a nurse caring for her as a baby in the burn unit, her entire life. (Photo: Amanda Scarpinati/Facebook)
A mother whose Facebook search for a nurse who cared for her almost 40 years ago went viral this week has found the mystery woman — in only 24 hours.
Amanda Scarpinati, 37, has wondered all her life about a nurse who helped her in the Albany Medical Center burn unit in 1977. At 3 months old, Scarpinati was on the brink of pneumonia, so her parents put her on a couch near a hot-steam humidifier. “Apparently, at the time, I hadn’t yet rolled over, and that would be the fateful moment that I decided to try it,” Scarpinati tells Yahoo Parenting. “I was in the living room by myself and rolled off the couch and landed right on the humidifier.” She remained there for a full minute, suffering third-degree burns on her face and hands, she says.
Scarpinati, now mom to a 12-year-old son, spent seven weeks in the hospital and endured many surgeries during her youth as a result. “All through elementary school, I was picked on and bullied because of it,” the Athens, N.Y., mom says. But one person Scarpinati knows treated her with only loving care? A nurse at the burn unit, whose photo Scarpinati had seen for years. “There are pictures of us together in an internal annual report for Albany Med from that year. I don’t know how our family got ahold of it, but I’ve always had the report and I would stare at the pictures and wonder who she was, ever since I was kid. But I’ve never had a name to go with the face,” Scarpinati says. “The pictures are so beautiful. Just by looking at them, you can see that she cares. She has a comforting look to her.”
Amanda Scarpinati has wondered about the nurse featured in this photograph since she was a child. (Photo: Amanda Scarpinati/Facebook)
Scarpinati says she tried to locate the nurse 20 years ago, but with no luck. “I went though Albany Med and they did some research but weren’t really able to find anything,” she says. “I just wanted to thank her.”
Acknowledging nurses’ work is important to Scarpinati, whose mother is also a nurse. “What they do is truly amazing. A lot of time it’s not the doctors who have the bedside manner, it’s the nurses that comfort you. I remember as a kid having one surgery and my mother couldn’t be there but a nurse was. They are like surrogate parents when you are a sick child.”
Amanda Scarpinati and her 12-year-old son. (Photo: Amanda Scarpinati/Facebook)
On Wednesday, after showing the photos to a friend, it occurred to Scarpinati to revive her search, this time online. “I just figured a lot has changed since the first time I tried to find her, so why not give it a shot,” she says. Scarpinati posted the original photos, with a plea for her friends to share them far and wide. Within 24 hours, the post had more than 5,000 shares, she says, and Scarpinati had received messages from people all over the country.
By Thursday night, Scarpinati posted that she’d gotten her best lead yet. In a Facebook message, a woman named Angela wrote: “I worked in the Recovery room in 1977 at Albany Med. I knew this nurse very well and her name is Susan Berger. She was as sweet and caring as she looks in this picture. She loved her job, and caring for children and adults alike.” Angela explains that Berger moved out of the area, and that the two hadn’t spoke in about 35 years, but she hoped the information helped Scarpinati.
After posting this photo, and others, online, Amanda Scarpinati has finally located the nurse who cared for her when she was an infant. (Photo: Amanda Scarpinati/Facebook)
It certainly did. A local news station confirmed that Berger was indeed the nurse in the picture, Scarpinati says. Today, she lives near Syracuse, N.Y., about two and a half hour from Scarpinati’s home in Athens.
The two have not connected yet — but Berger still works as a nurse, so Scarpinati is hoping to call her Friday evening. “Honestly, I don’t know what I am going to say. When I talk to her, the words will probably come, but as of now I’m drawing a blank. ‘Thank you’ will the biggest thing,” she says. Producers at the local news station who spoke to Berger told Scarpinati that the nurse has the same pictures, and has also kept them with her throughout the years. “They said she was very moved that I was looking for her, and that she remembers the day the photos were taken so well.”
Scarpinati, whose birthday is next week, says the upcoming reunion is the best present she could have asked for. “I couldn’t think of getting anything more rewarding,” she says.