Giving Back: Sam Castagna ’20 Volunteers at North Shore NICU

Inside the North Shore Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at which Sam Castagna ’20 volunteered to provide support to parents whose children were suffering from birth complications.

By Andrew Donnelly ’20

“Carry each other’s burdens, and this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

This quote from Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians perfectly reflects junior Sam Castagna’s sense of community, humility, and generosity. On February 21, 2019, Sam traveled to North Shore Hospital to pay a visit to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)—a place to which he feels that he owes a special debt of gratitude.

The NICU is an intensive care unit geared mainly towards caring for and sustaining either premature or sick newborn babies. Infants are admitted to the NICU everyday for a variety of reasons—spanning from premature birth to infections to congenital disorders. Such examples are instances in which the child will most likely be fine; however, it is certainly a cause for alarm among parents. To have a newborn child admitted to the NICU can be a very frightening experience.

It is said that experience is life’s best teacher, and Sam and his family know this harsh reality all too well as Sam himself spent a significant amount of time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at North Shore as an infant. In fact, Sam’s personal experience has greatly contributed to his heightened sense of awareness.

“I volunteer at the NICU because the doctors and nurses there saved my life seventeen years ago. I feel that I should give back to the place that did so much for me in my time of need,” Sam explained.

Sam recognized that the parents of these infants undergo great amounts of stress and anxiety, despite most infants’ ending up healthy in the long run. Seeing a child in pain or possible danger remains one of the most heart-wrenching experiences that any parent has to endure. For this reason, Sam spent much of his day at North Shore Hospital helping those distressed parents. He managed to give these worried parents comfort in such an incredibly worrisome environment. Additionally, Sam was able to share some time with the same nurses who were responsible for his own care as a young child, and discuss his past experiences with them.

Sam volunteered alongside two mothers who, similar to himself, have experience when it comes to the NICU. Sam felt strongly that, by his and the others’ presence, he could effectively give a sense of comfort and consolation to these disheartened mothers and fathers. Each member of Sam’s team had a unique role to play. The two women that worked with Sam were able to directly relate to what the parents of these children were going through, a quality that extended the connection Sam and his team had with the distressed parents. .

“The women I was working with spoke to the parents about their experiences. They were able to directly relate to what the parents were going through, something that I could not do,” mentioned Sam.

Sam had a unique and important role: acting as an example of a young man that was once in the NICU himself. Through simple conversations, he was a source of hope in a place that is not really conducive to optimism. Since Sam was once in the same position as their babies, his presence demonstrated that their babies will someday grow up to be happy and healthy young men and women, who will move past this unfortunate stage.

“My role was simply to talk to the parents. A number of parents told me that my presence there was very helpful. They told me that our conversations gave them a sense of hope for the future of their children. One mother whose child was having a particularly difficult time said that I made a real impact and gave her renewed strength,” recalled Sam.

Sam’s hard work, dedication, and sensitivity to the unfortunate circumstances of these parents are an example of how to care for one another. Sam recognizes that as children of God, we all have a responsibility to each other. Chaminade’s motto, fortes in unitate, or strength in unity, declares that although we may be weak individually, we are all stronger when we work together towards a common goal of happiness. Evidently, Chaminade junior Sam Castagna does more than merely understand this concept—he lives it to its fullest.