Years after spending 87 days in a neonatal intensive care unit, Tara Wood and her twin daughters are now UAB alumni using their life experiences to help others.
Written by: Laura Gasque and Hannah Echols
Media Contact: Hannah Echols
Tara Wood was planning to become a teacher until she found herself giving birth to twin girls at 26 weeks gestation. They weighed less than 2 pounds and spent 87 days in the neonatal intensive care unit.
“My world was rocked,” Wood said. “My babies were really sick. Both girls were on ventilators for weeks. Their organs were premature, and you’re faced with all the things that can go wrong. Just knowing that every minute counts really puts you in a constant state of dread and panic, of not really knowing how your babies are going to survive, let alone thrive.
Wood remembers not being able to hold his children for months. Meanwhile, her lifeline for her daughters was nurses and nurse practitioners. She then realized that she wanted to become a nurse and provide similar support to other families.
After working as a NICU nurse, Wood enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs at the University of Alabama at the Birmingham School of Nursing. She is now an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and coordinator of the neonatal nurse practitioner specialty stream, teaching and preparing future nurses to care for infants and families. One of these students, her daughter Jade England.
England, a fifth-semester student in a bachelor of science in nursing, will graduate in April and begin her new job as a nurse in the regional neonatal intensive care unit at the UAB Women and Infants Center.
“Growing up, I saw pictures of our little bodies covered in sensors and tubes,” England said. “We still have scars from where the center lines were placed. I knew I had to become a NICU nurse. I want the parents to know that I was in their child’s shoes and, without giving false hopes, show them that miracles can happen.
The UAB family ties don’t end there. Taylor England is graduating alongside her twin sister, Jade, this spring with a degree in psychology from the UAB College of Arts and Sciences with a minor in legal affairs and a certificate in mental health.
“I loved seeing the difference my mom made in supporting families in NICU, but nursing just didn’t feel like the right calling for me,” Taylor said. “Through my classes, research opportunities, and UAB organizations, I realized there are many ways to use my life experiences to positively impact someone else’s life. My goal is to one day become a child psychologist.
While at UAB, Taylor participated in the psychology honors program, where she gained first-hand research experience studying ADHD in children, a condition her brother was diagnosed with when they were younger. . She has also been a TrailBlazer, providing campus tours for prospective students and their families.
For Wood, it’s sometimes hard to believe that her tiny, fragile NICU babies are graduating from college and starting their careers.
“I’m a proud mom and I want to share them with the world because I believe they were born to do great things,” Wood said. “They have a servant’s heart, and they want to help and do good. I’m grateful to UAB because I think UAB has been a place that has really poured down on them and empowered them to do for others.
As their undergraduate chapter comes to an end, their UAB journey is far from over. Jade wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and plans to return to school next year to begin the post-BSN nurse practitioner journey at DNP to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. One day, she hopes to teach alongside her mom. Taylor plans to complete an internship to get her certificate in mental health and hopes to return to UAB in the future to continue her academic career.
“We were looking for college at the same time our mom was looking for a job,” Taylor said. “As it turns out, we all fell in love with UAB at the same time. Green and gold will forever be deeply ingrained in our family.