Grateful Patient Gives Back to NICU Nearly Two Decades After NICU Saves Her Life; Honors Mother’s Wishes

Julie Buehler and Christa Buehler

Inspired by her (late) mother, teenager Christa Buehler donates grad party funds to Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

For 200–300 babies each year, their first few hours, days or even weeks and months are spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, while they are being evaluated or sometimes fighting for their lives.

One dramatic story is that of Christa Buehler, who was born three months before her anticipated due date, back in June 1999. “It seemed like a situation where either my mom Julie or I wouldn’t survive,” said Christa.

Weighing only one pound, three ounces at birth, Christa overcame the odds and is now thriving as a 19-year-old college freshman at Trine University. Her mother, Julie, who was in her 40s when she gave birth to Christa, and also survived the harrowing experience of the early delivery, thanks to the expert care she received.

“It was my mom’s idea for me to donate my money to the NICU, after the way the doctors and nurses had saved us all those years ago,” said Christa. “Through my experience, I have an idea of what the patients go through.”

Sadly, Julie never was able to see her daughter graduate from high school or donate her gift to the hospital.

Two days before Christa graduated from West Michigan Aviation Academy in the summer of 2018, Julie passed away from breast cancer that had spread to her brain.

As a way to honor her mother’s wishes, Christa and her father, Neil, set up a sign to let guests know that half of the funds received that day would be donated to the NICU at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. The other half of the gifts would go to another local organization.

Neil Buehler and Christa Buehler in her graduation cap and gown

Guests at her graduation party were surprised. “They had never heard of anyone donating their grad party money before, but they were impressed that I would do that.

“It made me feel better to donate the money,” said Christa of her gift. “This donation will give families the opportunity to experience the same miracle that we did, will preserve more lives so these children can find their place in this world and will prove to the world how blessed the gift of life truly is.”

Christa plans on continuing to give back and to honor her mother throughout her life by studying to become a biomedical engineer. “I want to continue helping patients, whether or not it’s through the NICU or any other patient who needs medical care.”

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is honored that Christa followed through in such a selfless way during such a difficult time in her life. Perhaps one day, Christa will consider working at Mercy Health as a biomedical engineer.  With the specialized medical equipment in the NICU and throughout the Mercy Health medical centers in West Michigan, such expertise is sought and greatly appreciated.

Mercy Health offers multiple ways to give.

In Grand Rapids, visit the Saint Mary’s Foundation web page.

In Muskegon, visit the Office of Philanthropy web page.


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