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She had a panic attack during preterm labor. Then a nurse stepped in

Teresa Hernandez with baby Lucca.
Teresa Hernandez
Teresa Hernandez with baby Lucca.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team. It features stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.

In Jan. 2020, Teresa Hernandez was 33 weeks pregnant. One morning, she had a strange feeling about her baby. He wasn't moving as he usually did. She decided to go to the hospital to make sure everything was OK.

When she got there, she and her husband learned that the baby's heart rate was dropping. Her doctor told her that the baby needed to be delivered that day, by C-section.

"When she said that, I was in complete shock," Hernandez remembered. "I said, 'But he's too little.' And she said, 'Yes, but if he's inside, I won't be able to help him if something goes wrong.'"

They rushed Hernandez to the operating room. On the way, her anxiety became overwhelming. She started to cry and have trouble breathing, and she knew she was having a panic attack. That's when a nurse in the operating room stepped in to help.

"This nurse, she took my hand and started squeezing. And then she held me while they were doing the epidural. And she started rubbing my back. And then I think she placed one hand on my cheek. And she started humming," Hernandez recalled.

"I felt like my mom was there, holding me."

Aside from her husband, Hernandez had no family with her. But the nurse's gesture of warmth brought her relief. It made it feel like her mom was by her side.

"When your mom is there, you feel protected. You feel like you can do it. You feel like everything is going to be right. And that's what I felt with her," Hernandez said.

Hernadez's son, Lucca, was born on Jan. 8, 2020. He spent five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Plano, Texas. She says that Lucca is now healthy and thriving.

Teresa Hernandez with Lucca.
/ Teresa Hernandez
Teresa Hernandez
Teresa Hernandez with Lucca.

Looking back, Hernandez remembers a string of unsung heroes who helped her that day. But she says that nurse in the operating room was the first one — the one that left a lasting impression.

"I'm really, really thankful for her, for what she did that day for me."

Listen to All Things Considered each day here or on your local member station for more stories like this.

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to

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Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]