ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Nikki Ihus needed a smile.
The new mom from Kansas spends her days reading to her baby boy, John Henry, in a room at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete.
He was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), which required major surgery.
CDH is when there is a large hole in the diaphragm, allowing the internal organs to enter the chest cavity. It can threaten lung development in infants.
The national survival rate of infants born with CDH is between 60 and 70 percent.
The CDH team at Johns Hopkins is among the best in the country. The techniques doctors at the St. Pete hospital use brought their CDH survival rate to more than 90 percent.
That is why Nikki is a long way from home.
John Henry is getting stronger every day, but even with his progress, the family still won’t be able to go back to Kansas for a few months.
Nikki last week wanted to buy her son some clothes at Rhea Lana’s, a pop-up consignment shop.
So she called an Uber.
Belinda answered the call, picking Nikki up at the hospital.
“I hopped in the car and I think she could tell I wasn’t having the best day,” says Nikki.
“She needed to talk and I was there to listen,” says Belinda, a mother herself. “People don’t listen anymore. I believe people get in my car for a reason other than a ride.”
So Nikki told Belinda her story. Her mother had just left. John Henry had a setback. The new mom was tired, scared, homesick, lonely.
When they arrived at Rhea Lana’s, Nikki said goodbye and walked into the store.
But Belinda didn’t drive away.
“She touched my heart,” says the Uber driver. “So I parked the car and turned Uber off. I went in and I found her and said, ‘This is a day that should be fun for you. And you shouldn’t be alone. Let’s shop.'”
“I cried a lot,” smiles Nikki.
Belinda’s kindness didn’t end there.
She bought about 30 pieces of baby clothes for her new friend. The store’s employees were amazed.
“They asked me how long I’ve known her,” laughs Belinda. “I said, ‘Oh, about 15 minutes.’”
Belinda came back to the hospital this week — this time as a friend. While at Johns Hopkins, she got to meet John Henry for the first time.
“He’s so beautiful,” Belinda says.