In Ari the Brave’s Jungle Journey, Ari journey starts off in the hospital and drifts off to sleep for his lung surgery. This is a little bit different than how the real story took place. Of course there was no jungle, there were no unusual creatures, and there definitely weren’t any monkeys. Ari was a baby, not a young boy and he wasn’t quite aware of what was taking place. But… there was a Cindy. Cindy the Cheetah was inspired by Ari’s charge nurse in the hospital, Cindie. I don’t really know how I would have made it through this without her. Just like Cindy is by Ari’s side throughout the jungle journey, she was by our side throughout the NICU stay and all of the procedures.
Cindie was my source of strength throughout our stay. Often when I was sitting by Ari’s bed just staring into space watching all the other moms hold their babies, she would come sit down and talk to me. She talked to me like a human being. She asked about my family and told me about hers. After being in COVID isolation for 3 months and then being stuck in the NICU, I didn’t realize how much I needed to be treated like a human in those moments. I needed to remember that there is life outside of the NICU.
Not only was she a source of strength, but she was also an advocate for me and baby Ari. Again, recognizing that we are humans, we are moms and we are so much more than a NICU family. On my daughter, Anabelle’s, 6th birthday, we were still in the hospital and I hadn’t been discharged myself yet. You weren’t allowed to be on your phone in the NICU, but Cindie made an exception. She put blankets on Ari to cover up some of the wires and the IVs and made him look as nice as possible to meet his big sister via Facetime on her birthday. It was such a special moment since we couldn’t be there ourselves. She advocated for my husband to be let into the NICU with me because he was driving an hour each way to drop me off at the hospital after we were home. She also advocated for his medical care and his follow up even after we were all discharged. She was with us every step of the way even when she wasn’t required to be.
You’ll see throughout the story that sometimes Cindy gets scared also, but she remains a strength for Ari and empowers him to keep going. She hangs out with him in the downtime and she roars at the top of her lungs when Ari needs a boost of bravery. The real life Cindie may not be as fluffy as Cindy the Cheetah, but she was everything we needed in those moments.
While NICU nurses do their thing all day every day, often without a thank you, for us NICU mamas, you not only saved our babies, but you saved us as well.