On Aug. 7, Evelyn Mierau celebrated her 30th anniversary as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Nurse at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph.
The following day, she celebrated her retirement with a pot luck meal with her NICU teammates, followed by a reception with dozens of current and former hospital colleagues.
“It's hard to leave my babies and families, who've been my life since I was 25,” says Evelyn, who has spent three of the past four decades as a NICU nurse at Via Christi. "I do feel that I've made a difference and that it's where God put me and what I was intended to do."
But she's ready to start a new chapter of her life.
Her immediate plans include cataract surgery and a trip to British Columbia to see her sister, taking time for leisurely stops at all the National Parks on the way there and back.
After that, Mierau, who is an associate of the Congregation of St. Joseph, intends to devote her time to church activities, helping Sister Mary Ellen Loch with social justice initiatives and volunteering for Immigration Support Services.
"I'll probably be busier than when I was working," says Mierau with a laugh.
Among those who came to wish her well was Paul Hagman, who will turn 30 Aug. 16, making him one the first babies she cared for at St. Joseph.
His mother, Michelle Armbrister, then an SICU nurse, later joined Mierau in the NICU and now serves as the NewLife Center director.
"We will all miss Evelyn," she says, describing Mierau as a strong patient and parent advocate.
"She's always looked for ways to identify and implement best practices and encouraged others to do the same," adds Armbrister.
Mierau, whose NICU career began before the development of surfactants and other life-saving developments in the care of premature and critically ill babies, says it's been rewarding to see the improved outcomes over time.
So are the bonds that she's developed with babies and their parents. Says Mierau: "Most leave a spot in your heart for years."