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When 'thank you' isn't enough: Riley Children's dad turned employee

“Pretty much everything was guiding me to where we are now"
Junie Gibson
Posted at 8:38 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 20:43:42-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A Homecroft father of four recently changed his career path in hopes of giving back to the hospital that saved his newborn daughter’s life.

“I’m excited to get up and go to work every day and there’s not many jobs where you can say that,” Kevin Gibson said.

While he is still fairly new as a protective services officer around the halls of Riley Hospital for Children, he did spend weeks walking the same path while his daughter, Juniper was a patient.

CREDIT: Gibson Family

“It feels like a lifetime ago," Jennifer Gibson said. "It feels surreal. It feels like it wasn’t really us."

The family knew before the birth of their twins, Juniper and Jemma in June, that ‘Junie’ had a heart condition.

“It’s one of the most common and under-diagnosed diseases that we see,” Dr. Anne Farrell, one of Junie’s doctors at Riley Hospital for Children, said. The official diagnosis by Farrell was Critical Aortic Stenosis.

Fast-forward to August and Junie went in for a fairly simple Cath Lab procedure, but before things started, she went into cardiac arrest. The two-month-old then was put on ECMO before having open-heart surgery.

“When I saw her that first time, I kept going outside of her hospital room and looking out the door because this doesn’t look like my baby," Jennifer said. "I think maybe we’re in the wrong room."

CREDIT: Gibson Family

During Junie’s weeks-long hospital stay, Kevin, then a stay-at-home dad and former code enforcement officer with the city, got to know the protective services officers on duty. They told him they were hiring.

“Pretty much everything was guiding me to where we are now,” Kevin said.

Without hesitation, Kevin took the job because he wanted to give back and most importantly wanted to say thank you. The first week on the job, he was able to stop his daughter’s surgeon in the hallway to do just that.

“He turned around. He’s like, ‘Sir, is there a problem?’ And I did say, ‘Yes, sir. There is. I never got to say thank you.’ And I showed him a couple pictures of her and everything and it was a really surreal moment to me,” Kevin said.

At Riley Hospital for Children, Kevin is now a part of a little army of parents turned employees with a unique and comforting perspective within those four walls.

“I have at least three of my patients whose parents changed their jobs and work at Riley in various different locations,” Farrell said. “There’s no one that understands better the pain of having a sick child in a hospital than a parent who’s already gone through it.”

Kevin agreed. He added with a laugh, “A lot of the parents, especially the dads are like I don’t even know how to say, I don’t even know what to do for these guys to say thank you. And I’m like there’s nothing really except we’re hiring.”

February is American Heart Month and Farrell said she wants awareness to continue about Congenital Heart Disease and pediatric heart conditions even after the month is over.

As for the Gibsons, Junie has physical therapy and occupational therapy every week to help regain strength after going into cardiac arrest, but long-term, the outlook is bright.

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