As It Happens

Woman reunited with the nurse who helped treat her burns as a baby

For years, Amanda Scarpinati has been looking for the nurse who took care of her as a three-month-old. Her only lead was a few photographs published in the hospital's journal in 1977. Yesterday, Scarpinati was finally reunited with that nurse.
In the first photo, nurse Susan Berger, left, and Amanda Scarpinati hug during a news conference at Albany Medical Center, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. Scarpinati, who suffered severe burns as an infant, is finally getting the chance to thank Berger who cared for her, thanks to a social media posting that revealed the identity of the nurse in 38-year-old photos. (Left: Mike Groll/AP, Right: Carl Howard/Albany Medical Center via AP)

For years, Amanda Scarpinati has been trying to find the nurse who took care of her as a baby when she was hospitalized for burns. Yesterday, that finally happened. After almost 38 years, Scarpinati was reunited with nurse Susan Berger in Albany, N.Y. 

"I hugged her and I said 'Oh my God, you are real,'" Scarpinati tells As it Happens host Carol Off. "I was very much overwhelmed with emotion."

The two women first met at Albany Medical Centre in 1977, where Berger was working as a nurse. Scarpinati had been admitted for third-degree burns on her head and hand, after falling on a hot steam humidifier. She was three-months-old. 

Sometime during that hospital visit, photographs were taken of Scarpinati and Berger. The hospital published the images in their annual report in 1977. 

"It gives me chills every time I look at it," Scarpinati says.

This picture of Susan Berger holding Amanda Scarpinati was featured on the front cover of Albany Medical Center's 1977 annual report. (Amanda Scarpinati)

Scarpinati says the photographs helped her deal with the scars left by the accident. 

"As a child, things were very difficult for me. The children weren't always the nicest ... I would be called a witch because of my scars from the burns," she says.

"I would look at that picture and I would always think, 'Here is someone who cared for me with love and compassion.' It didn't matter what kind of scars or burns I had. It was just genuine. It was comforting."

Scarpinati tried to find Berger 20 years ago, but was unsuccessful. This time, she posted the photos on social media and had more luck. 

Amanda Scarpinati speaks during a news conference at Albany Medical Center on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. The upstate New York woman who suffered severe burns as an infant is finally getting the chance to thank the hospital nurse who cared for her, thanks to a social media posting that revealed the identity of the nurse in 38-year-old photos. (Mike Groll/AP Photo)

"I didn't have a name. I just had her beautiful face," she says. "Lo and behold, one of her former co-workers saw the post and recognized her right away."

A local news station contacted Berger and the two women were able to meet for the first time yesterday. 

"It was a dream come true. Honestly, it was something I never thought would happen."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.