When Amanda Scarpinati, of Athens, New York, suffered severe burns as a baby, she was being cared for by a kind, young nurse while staying in a hospital in Albany, N.Y. After 38 years, Amanda finally found that nurse and thanked her for her kindness in person.
In 1977, after falling off a couch onto a hot steam humidifier, the then-3-month-old Scarpinati was taken to Albany Medical Center to be treated for third-degree burns on her head and hand. During her stay at the hospital, a compassionate nurse with long wavy hair tended to young Scarpinati, holding and comforting her.
A few of those moments were captured by photographer Carl Howard, and they were eventually published in the Medical Center’s 1977 annual report. A picture of the nurse cradling the young Scarpinati, whose head was wrapped in gauze, was even featured on the front cover of the annual report.
Scarpinati kept these heartwarming black-and-white photographs, and it was the photos that would lead her to seek out her former caregiver many years later.
“It gives me chills every time I look at it,” Scarpinati told CBC/Radio-Canada’s show As it Happens.
Having to deal with scars and undergoing reconstructive surgeries for years, Scarpinati, now an adult, shared that those black-and-white photos had consoled her during this rather gloomy period in her childhood.
“As a child, things were very difficult for me. The children weren’t always the nicest … I would be called a witch because of my scars from the burns,” she shared. “I would look at that picture and I would always think, ‘Here is someone who cared for me with love and compassion.’ It didn’t matter what kind of scars or burns I had. It was just genuine. It was comforting.”
Scarpinati explained how she had always wanted to find that nurse and thank her for her act of kindness.
For 20 years, Scarpinati had tried in vain to find the nurse.
“I didn’t have a name. I just had her beautiful face,” she said.
Scarpinati later decided to try her luck on social media by posting the images on Facebook, and within a day, she received an affirmative response from a nurse who used to work at Albany Medical Center, Angela Leary.
She discovered that the nurse’s name was Susan Berger and that she was only 21 years old at the time when the photos were taken. When she was a baby, Scarpinati had been one of Berger’s very first patients on the job.
Finally, on Sept. 29, 2015, the now fully grown Scarpinati met nurse Berger—38 years after their first encounter—at Albany Medical Center.
“I hugged her and I said ‘Oh my God, you are real,'” Scarpinati said. “I was very much overwhelmed with emotion.”
It was a dream come true for Scarpinati. “I’m over the moon I never thought this day would come,” she told the Associated Press.
Looking back, Berger recalled her memory of Scarpinati many years ago, according to Today: “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.”
Berger did not expect such a warm gesture from a patient after so many years. “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,” she said.
Speaking to Berger, who had saved the photos herself, said: “It’s just that reminder that you can make a difference. You just have to remember to have that compassion every day.”