How Dancing Makes A Difference: Crystal’s Story

By Eliza Kanner, HuskyTHON

crystal-1_huskythonOn February 18 more than 2,500 HuskyTHON participants will dance all through the night. They will spend 18 hours on their feet, dancing to raise funds for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. When I spoke to Crystal Torraco on a Sunday afternoon, she was enjoying a day off after spending the previous night on her feet, but rather than spending it at the student recreation center at the University of Connecticut, she was making her rounds as a Registered Nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Connecticut Children’s.

Crystal spent her college days heavily involved with organizations at UConn that pride themselves in community service and philanthropic efforts. She was a counselor at Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut, and held numerous leadership positions within HuskyTHON. Dancers are asked to find their “why,” and Crystal’s “why” has changed since working at Connecticut Children’s. “I danced for my future patients and now, I donate to those who dance for the patients I take care of each and every day,” Crystal said.

Working at Connecticut Children’s was Crystal’s first choice when applying to jobs after graduating from Northeastern University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. “(Being involved with) HuskyTHON allowed me to go into the hospital and really see the impact it was making. So when it came down to applying for jobs, I knew I wanted to work in a children’s hospital…the first thing that came to mind was Connecticut Children’s.”

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit strives to have continuity of care, so Crystal is with the same patient family for an extended period of time. “We take the extra time to explain things to parents and to get them involved. We value it so much” Crystal explained.

Crystal feels the impact of HuskyTHON every day at work. “Huge fundraisers like HuskyTHON that go toward the hospital allows us to go beyond the normal supplies we need, it allows us to get newer technology, newer products. It helps us continually advance.”

crystal-huskython_dancersBabies born premature (prior to 32 weeks) or weighing 1500 grams (around 2.2 lbs.), are immediately placed in a giraffe warmer. This lifesaving incubator and radiant warmer auto regulates the temperature to provide a healing environment for the baby. HuskyTHON’s goal is to utilize the money raised on “100K in One Day” to purchase four giraffe warmers for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“Even one giraffe makes all the difference in a baby’s life, and the care we can provide,” Crystal said. “That’s their safe place–it’s what is keeping them warm and happy and lets us do our job safely and effectively.”

“It makes a huge difference. If we didn’t have the resources and the technology that allows us to do our job every day, it would be really hard,” Crystal said when asked about the impact HuskyTHON has for Connecticut Children’s.

“It’s hard to really see the impact you’re making when dancing, but to see it day by day in my job–and be able to do my job because of the impact HuskyTHON has–it’s huge. It’s really awesome.”

Anthony’s Story

By Jessie, Anthony’s Mother

anthony_babyAfter having a near perfect pregnancy, I went to the hospital with labor pains at 34 weeks.  I completely expected to be sent home, thinking it was a false alarm.  After multiple attempts to stop labor, I was shocked when the doctor told us they couldn’t do anything else and the baby would be born in the next few hours.

They assured me he would have to go to the NICU but would be just fine.  As new parents we were terrified.  We were thrown a curve ball when the doctor told us there weren’t any beds left in the Connecticut Children’s NICU and the baby would have to be transported to another hospital and we would stay behind until I recovered.  He quickly said “I will see what I can do,” then came back within a few minutes and told us they had a bed in the Connecticut Children’s NICU with our name on it.  Our son, Anthony, was born a few hours later.

Although he was relatively healthy and considered late pre-term, he had bradycardia which would cause his heart rate to drop.  We were quickly jolted into the NICU life of monitors and beeps and awaiting the doctors’ rounds each morning.   Thanks to the rooms available to NICU parents, I basically moved into the hospital.

There were so many great nurses and doctors, like Dr. Marilyn Sanders, that not only gave our child great care but helped us through one of the most tumultuous times in our life.  They released our son on Christmas Day in 2012 – by far the best gift we could have ever gotten!  He came home on a heart rate monitor and stayed on it for four months.

anthonyI looked forward to our checkups with Connecticut Children’s and could not have been more thrilled when I got the final call that he was cleared and that we didn’t need to carry the clunky heart rate monitor around.  He is now a happy and healthy, almost 4 year old. The NICU experience is one that I will never, ever forget.  Although it was one of the toughest times in my life, I am forever grateful for the care provided by Connecticut Children’s.