When Truett Aaron Jackson arrived in the world on July 6, 2020, his parents knew there was a chance that he might have some challenges, but that's not the point of this story.
Truett was born with Trisomy 21, commonly known as Down Syndrome. He was a big baby, nearly 10 pounds, and he spent his first couple of nights with his parents, until he began to have issues with his oxygen intake. That's when Truett became the fourth Jackson male to become a temporary resident of
Floyd Medical Center's Neonatal intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Nearly 40 years earlier, Truett's father, Cline, and uncle, Charles, received care in the NICU, after being born three-months early. Seven years ago, Truett's older brother, Thomas, also required special care in the NICU.
Christa Jackson, Truett's grandmother, remembers her family's first NICU experience well. She was expecting twins, due October 23, when Charles and Cline, made their early appearance, weighing just 2 pounds and 2 ounces each. The Jackson twins were patients in Floyd's NICU for 10 weeks before they were discharged home. Floyd NICU nurse Rita Smith was their nurse. The family snapped a picture of Nurse Rita with the twins on the day they went home. That picture still hangs in Floyd's NICU.
“There was really something special about Rita," Christa said. “We just always had a great confidence in her. She always went the extra mile to make sure that we knew everything that was going on every single morning. It takes a very special person to work there. Floyd has done a great job of finding those special people. They are all just so outstanding, empathetic and willing to make accommodations."
Almost exactly thirty-three years later, Cline and Jessica Jackson gave birth to their son, Thomas. Thomas also required extra care, and sure enough, Nurse Rita was among those caring for him. And, it was Rita who oversaw Thomas' discharge. The Jacksons put a photo of Rita holding Cline and Charles in the bed with Thomas and took another picture of her with the newest Jackson.
This past July, Nurse Rita had the special–and unlikely–privilege of discharging Truett from Floyd's NICU. Truett's primary nurse was Christina Martin. This time, the Jacksons seemed to barely miss Rita being Truett's nurse. She wasn't working when Truett was born, and on the days when Christina wasn't working, Rita was assigned to another NICU baby–until one eventful day.
Truett had been improving. He had hit most of the milestones he needed to be discharged, and the nursing team worked diligently to help him get him ready for home. On his last day, Rita was assigned to be his nurse. Jessica said she knew immediately that meant Truett would be coming home that day. It was as if God himself orchestrated Rita's schedule and Truett's progress to arrange this fourth Jackson connection.
Sure enough, Truett was discharged, and it was Nurse Rita closing out his care, 40 years after she had done the same for his father.
Jessica said she'll never forget the day. She, Cline, Truett and Nurse Rita, walked through the Floyd lobby. As soon as they appeared, a muffled roar sounded from the other side of the glass doors at the Main Entrance, where Truett's five siblings and grandparents waited to welcome him home with lots of tears, lots of hugs and a very special appreciation for Nurse Rita Smith.
Rita Smith has been a Floyd nurse since 1976, with the exception of one break in the early 2000s. Her longevity is a testament to her love for her work, her expertise and dedication to Floyd's tiniest patients, and, for the Jacksons, a special generational tie to Floyd's NICU.
To commemorate Truett's homecoming, which had been complicated not only by his diagnosis, but also by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jacksons once again asked Nurse Rita to pose for a photograph, this time the photo included pictures of her with his brother in addition to his father and uncle.
“We cannot say enough good things about the Floyd NICU and really
Labor and Delivery and Postpartum," Jessica said. “We had the best. We had the most compassionate care all around."