Lynn Bartos always had a good feeling about the soft-spoken nurse who would greet her warmly at the Milwaukee-area infusion clinic where she got treatments for rheumatoid arthritis pain. It turned out the two had a far deeper connection.
"I think somewhere inside of me there was something saying, 'There's something familiar about that young woman,'" said Bartos, a semi-retired nurse herself.
That nurse, Nicole Krahn, was assigned to administer the IV this summer as Bartos settled in for one of the three-hour appointments at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin that come every five weeks.
Krahn thought Bartos' name sounded familiar but couldn't place it. In conversation, she discovered Bartos was working part-time at the hospital's neurology clinic.
"I asked, 'Oh, is that where you spent your career?' She said, 'No ... I spent my early career at the GI clinic at Children's,'" Krahn said.
Krahn, whose small intestines became twisted shortly after birth and were mostly removed, had to be fed intravenously for the first few years of her life. She visited the clinic regularly as a child to be weighed and checked over. The girl who called herself "NeeNee" liked going to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin four or five times a week because she got to see a nurse she called "Sweet Lynney."
Rose Frye, Krahn's mother, remembers how her daughter would tell the nurse about her boo-boos. "She got attached to certain people," she said.
The pair was even featured in the hospital's nursing magazine in a 1988 story about long-term care.
This summer, Bartos took a second look at Krahn's name tag, and the realization hit.
"I said, 'You're NeeNee!' And she said, 'Yes, I am,' and we suddenly realized we had this connection that went way back to her being a toddler," said Bartos, now 66.
"And I'm like, 'That toddler is now taking care of me.' And I think I spent the rest of the day crying during the infusion appointment."
They hadn't seen each other in 25 years, since Bartos had changed jobs.
Krahn, now 30, said she remembered Bartos and always wanted to be a nurse. She says Bartos' kindness influenced how she relates to patients.
"I don't know if it's a small world, or it was meant for me to take care of her after all these years," Krahn said.
Bartos said she often wondered about "NeeNee."
"It was an absolute gift to me to reconnect with Nicole," she said. "That's how I look at it, that I was given a gift to know that 44 years of nursing, I did make a difference."