A woman who suffered severe burns as an infant is finally getting a chance to thank the hospital nurse who cared for her, thanks to a social media posting that revealed the identity of the nurse in 38-year-old photos.
Amanda Scarpinati says she has always treasured photos of her as a baby in a young nurse's arms. The pictures were published in Albany Medical Center's 1977 annual report without names. The black-and-white photos shot by photographer Carl Howard have a beatific, "Madonna and Child" quality.
"Growing up as a child, disfigured by the burns, I was bullied and picked on, tormented," said Scarpinati, 38, of Athens, 25 miles south of Albany. "I'd look at those pictures and talk to her, even though I didn't know who she was. I took comfort looking at this woman who seemed so sincere caring for me."
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She tried to find out the nurse's name 20 years ago without success. When she posted the photos on Facebook this month at the urging of a friend, she doubted her plea to help put a name to the nurse's face would be successful.
"Within 12 hours, it had gone viral with 5,000 shares across the country," said Scarpinati, who works as a human resources manager. "It was on the local TV news the next morning. I was blown away."
Angela Leary, a former nurse at Albany Medical Center, saw the post and sent Scarpinati a message saying the nurse in the photo is Susan Berger, who had moved to the Syracuse area years ago. "She was as sweet and caring as she looks in this picture," Leary wrote.
A local television reporter tracked down Berger, who now oversees the health center at Cazenovia College in New York's Finger Lakes region. Scarpinati talked to Berger on the phone.
"It was amazing," Scarpinati said. "She just has such a gentle, caring voice, just like I imagined she'd have."
Scarpinati was 3 months old when she was injured. She had been lying on a couch with a steam vaporizer on the floor beside her when she rolled off onto the boiling machine, which scalded her with steam and melted mentholated ointment. The resulting burns would require many reconstructive surgeries over the years.
Berger was 21 and just out of college when she worked in the pediatric recovery room at the medical center. In the photos, she has long wavy hair pulled back in a barrette and wears a white nurse's dress with puffy sleeves. Baby Amanda, her head thickly wrapped in gauze, gazes intently into the nurse's eyes.
"I remember her," Berger said. "She was very peaceful. Usually when babies come out of surgery they're sleeping or crying. She was just so calm and trusting. It was amazing."
"I don't know how many nurses would be lucky enough to have something like this happen, to have someone remember you all that time," Berger said. "I feel privileged to be the one to represent all the nurses who cared for her over the years."
The two were reunited at the same hospital where Berger once cared for Scarpinati. "The emotion I felt, I wasn't prepared for" said Scarpinati. Adding that "it was like hugging a mom."