Cherish Ramirez, Piedmont Healthcare

COVID-19 shook the world and many caring nurses, including Cherish Ramirez and her co-workers at Piedmont Newton Hospital’s NICU.

Ramirez, the nightshift charge nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit, was involved in arguably the hospital’s most heartbreaking cases: Two women died from the virus after having emergency C-sections to increase their chances of survival. Both babies lived.

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More than a year later, Ramirez said, she is “still processing what happened.”

Ramirez’s supervisor, Beth Timberlake, said the 29-year-old has a passion for patients and treats every family member with the type of holistic care that’s inspiring to others on the hospital staff.

“In the last two years, we have seen significant loss with our patients, our staff and, maybe even most importantly, in the spirit of nursing,” Timberlake said. “Cherish has been someone who has been able to keep the spirit going in others as well.”

That’s just one reason Ramirez was presented with an AJC Nurse Excellence Award on Tuesday afternoon, after being nominated last fall. More than 800 nurses were nominated, with 10 receiving awards.

That was never more apparent than when Ramirez was part of the care team for one of four mothers-to-be who tested positive for COVID-19.

The infant was in the NICU after the mother had an emergency C-section and was transferred to a sister hospital. The baby’s father spent most of his time near his wife, Timberlake said.

“Cherish rallied her team to make sure that we captured as many memories as possible and purchased a baby book to document all of the infant’s firsts,” Timberlake said. “We were able to capture his first feeding, his first bath, his first time FaceTiming with his mom, his first cuddle with his dad. All of those special moments were there for his parents to look at when everyone was home together. “

Unfortunately, only dad will be able to appreciate these captured memories; the mother died when her son was just 2 weeks old, Timberlake said.

“As with all traumatic events, our team struggled with this outcome as they continued to show compassionate care to his father and aunt during funeral preparations and throughout the rest of his stay with us,” she said.

Ramirez arranged to send flowers to the funeral and opened up about her feelings on the loss of the mother, helping others to be comfortable expressing their emotions, Timberlake said.

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The pandemic created lots of challenges and, at times, complete havoc, for NICU nurses as they struggled with keeping the patients safe even though that meant they could not see their babies, Ramirez said.

Dealing with the mother’s death “was really hard because the members of my staff are very caring people, very family-oriented,” she said. “I had a hard time telling them she had passed. They were all rooting for her.”

Ramirez has been a nurse for four years, all at Piedmont Newton. She said she wanted to work at that hospital because a family friend had been employed there for many years and always said it was a wonderful workplace.

From Ramirez’s perspective, that friend was right.

“I think I have a great team, and I think that makes a big difference,” she said. “And Piedmont Newton is growing and expanding, and I love to see things grow.”

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Read more about the nurses honored at this year’s ceremony:

Shannan Browning, Piedmont Healthcare

Lauren DePietro, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital

Sarah Harper, Wellstar Cobb Hospital

Rose Horton, Emory Healthcare

Damar Lewis, Northside Hospital Duluth

Gina Papa, Clarkston Community Health Center

Deepa Patel, Wellstar Shared Services

Andrew Perea, Kaiser Permanente

Julie Singleton, Northeast Georgia Health System

Denise Ray, Piedmont Healthcare: Nurse Leader Award


Age: 29

Current title: NICU charge nurse for night shift

Education: Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and in nursing from Valdosta State University

Years as a nurse: four, all at Piedmont Newton

Family: Married to Christian Ramirez with one child, Colton, 2. “Christian has always supported me in anything I’ve wanted to do. Colton is the light of my life. He brings such great joy to our lives. I love watching him learn new things. Both my parents, Marcie and Randy, have also played an important role in helping me follow my dreams as well! My mom instilled in me great kindness, and my father taught me how to be a hard worker and to use my hands.”