BUFFALO, N.Y. — Making it to retirement is cause for celebration, but for a nurse at Oishei Children's Hospital, Wednesday is extra special.
Donna Alessi is hanging up her scrubs after 49 years of working in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU), caring for hundreds of the tiniest and most fragile babies in Western New York.
She originally wanted to be a hairstylist, but her mother encouraged her to become a nurse. She started at Children's Hospital on May 1, 1972, and she never looked back.
Alessi said she is lucky and grateful to have had such a wonderful career, and the opportunity to make a difference for so many families.
"Very emotional," she said. "I got a lot of emails from people today, 'Woo-hoo, you are finally retiring!' One particular family just said our son wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the love you gave him, and it just warms my heart."
She added: "I am going to miss what I do. I am going to miss the families, the babies, but most of all the staff. The people that I love and have been with for years. But it's time to move on and I am excited to move on. My grandkids are even more excited because they think they are going to be with me seven days a week now."
She is working a full 12-hour shift Wednesday, her last day, and she will leave Oishei Children's Hospital for the final time as a registered nurse.