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Patient Stories

"Guardian Angel" NICU Nurse Reunites With Former Patient While Caring For His Daughter

Nurse Christine Fontana joins Jay Alter and his new newborn daughter, Ellie. She cared for both.

The journey of a very special guardian angel and the Alter family started on Friday, April 8, 1994. 

On that spring day, Barbara Alter gave birth to her son Jay, at New London’s Lawrence + Memorial Hospital (L+M). He had jaundice which required him to stay at L+M for five days. The person entrusted with Jay’s care at L+M was nurse practitioner Christine “Chris” Consiglio. 

Flash forward to 2023. Jay and his wife Liz’s newborn daughter Ellie was emergently transported to Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital (YNHCH) from another hospital. The process of having Liz transferred as a medical transport took some time, so Jay arrived at YNHCH with his mom Barbara and newborn Ellie ahead of Liz’s arrival. 

“We were on information overload as you can imagine,” Jay recalls about Ellie’s first day of life, which involved many nurses, doctors, and specialists running a series of tests that revealed some abnormalities. 

“My Mom was very reassuring saying Ellie is in great hands here,” said Jay. “She went on to remind me that I, too, was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for five days back in 1994 and that everything would be fine.” 

It was at this point upon hearing this conversation that Christine Fontana (formerly Consiglio), who was part of Ellie’s care team, asked Jay if he was born at YNHCH. Barbara explained he was born at L+M because Jay’s Dad was stationed in Groton at the time with the U.S. Navy. 

Curious and intrigued, Chris asked again to confirm the year of Jay’s birth and casually mentioned that she was a nurse practitioner at L+M in 1994. 

It was at this point that Barbara recalled that she had kept a diary of everyone who had cared for Jay at L+M. She went home later that day and discovered the name “Chris” in several of her entries. 

“Twenty-nine years later, when all the dots were connected, we all realized that Chris has been our guardian angel the entire time,” said Jay. “We all believe that there are no coincidences in life. Chris was there for our family in 1994 and here she is now, all these years later, caring for our daughter Ellie in the NICU. And Chris was that shining light on a very dark day when Ellie was transferred here.”

While Chris doesn’t have a clear memory of Jay’s stay at L+M in 1994, she did say, “I always try to take care of the parents anyway, but when I realized he was one of my patients, I had to take care of him because when you’re one of my patients, you’re my patient for life.” 

Even though Jay was dealing with circumstances that he couldn’t believe, “We knew we were going to be OK. When we put all the pieces of this remarkable puzzle together, you realize Chris has really been our family’s guardian angel all these years”, said Jay. “To have her here, realizing what happened 29 years earlier, we knew everything was going to be OK.”  

And everything is OK. After 58 days in the NICU and two successful surgeries, Ellie was discharged. 

“It won’t be 29 years before we see you (Chris) again,” Jay quipped to Chris the day of Ellie’s discharge. “You’re stuck with us for life.”