On Tuesday, she and that nurse were together again.
The driver for that reunion were 38-year-old photos showing the two after the then-infant Scarpinati — who, at just 3 months old, suffered severe burns after rolling off a couch onto a hot-steam humidifier — underwent reconstructive surgery at Albany Medical Center.
One of the pictures was originally posted on a cover of a 1977 Albany Medical annual report, an internal publication of the upstate New York hospital. And last week, Scarpinati gave it new life when she posted that and three related pictures to Facebook hoping it could help reunite her with that nurse.
It worked. The photos went viral, and on Tuesday, Scarpinati tearfully hugged Susan Berger, the nurse in the recovery room who was pictured.
“I felt a sense of incompleteness, not knowing (who the nurse was),” Scarpinati wrote to CNN on Tuesday night.
“… Meeting her today, there was an instant bond, and I melted in her arms once again — a friendship to last a lifetime.”
Berger, who is now executive vice president at Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, New York, told reporters the episode is “a great reminder at the end of my career to think back on all of the interactions I’ve had with patients, all the things that I’ve done.”
“Maybe put aside the hard work and the times it was so stressful and think about this. This is the best part,” she said.
Pictures, sense that someone cared ‘stayed with me’
Scarpinati endured years of surgeries and bullying because of her burns. She told CNN affiliate WSTM that the images of the nurse helped her through some of her toughest times while growing up — serving as a reminder, she said, that someone out there cared.
“Having a hard childhood (and) being picked on because of my burns, I found comfort in the beautiful amazing photos of this beautiful stranger, this nurse, holding me,” she told CNN on Tuesday. “And you can feel the compassion and love she had for me.”
Angela Leary, another former nurse at Albany Medical, recognized the image and gave Scarpinati the name of the nurse. Leary responded to the post telling Scarpinati that Berger was “as sweet and caring as she looks in this picture.”
Berger also held on to the images and remembers Scarpinati and the day the photo was taken.
“I held her in my arms, I do remember she sort of melted like butter and if she could’ve said anything to me it probably would’ve been, ‘OK, I’m going to be OK,’ ” she told WSTM.