BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Twenty-three years ago, Courtney Schiersing was born at just 26 weeks at the former Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.

PHOTO: Courtesy Schiersing family

She spent 72 days in the NICU, and her mother wasn’t able to hold her until over a month after she was born.

Schiersing, a West Seneca native, is now a nurse herself. She works in the NICU at Oishei Children’s Hospital alongside one of the NICU nurses who took care of her over two decades ago.

Schiersing celebrated her 23rd birthday on Monday with Amy DeSantis, who was her primary nurse in the NICU.

“Our job is to care for these babies,” said DeSantis. “But also, to help foster a sense of connection and attachment with mom and dad at a time when there’s often feelings of intense grief around being separated from their newborn – physically and emotionally. I want to help parents feel less alone.”

PHOTO/Oishei Children’s Hospital

DeSantis stayed in the Schiersings life as Courtney grew up, attending birthday parties, graduations, and other milestones.

Schiersing, interested in becoming a nurse from a young age, volunteered in the NICU.

She graduated from Niagara University in May 2021 with a degree in nursing and started a preceptorship in the NICU at Oishei Children’s Hospital – working alongside DeSantis.

“Things may have started out a bit rocky for my family and me, but it brought Amy into our lives, and now I have the chance to do what I love and to be a symbol of hope for other families. I want to show them what a NICU baby can become,” Schiersing said.

Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.