Woman who spent weeks in coma 25 years ago reunites with nurse

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Sandra Bookman reports on the nurse and coma patient reunion after 25 years.

A woman who spent weeks in a coma a quarter of a century ago was reunited Friday with the nurse who cared for her.

When Hadassah Willig was 5 years old, she was admitted to Cohen Children's Medical Center (then known as Schneider Children's Hospital) with a swelling of the brain tissue. Suffering from encephalitis, she was in and out of a coma for several weeks, but she says she clearly remembers everything that was being said around her.

More importantly, she remembered registered nurse Maxine Hogan.

"I've been looking to find her for 25 years," Willig said. "She tuned into my needs and was there to comfort me when it was a scary time for me."

More than two decades later, the two women met not as nurse and patient, but as two nurses who are also devoted mothers.

"She was my favorite nurse, and I always wanted to find her again," Willig said. "She made a great impression on me. She's the reason I became a nurse."

Willig finally got the chance to say thank you to the inspiration behind her own career, in a reunion at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital.

"Just to think that I made such and impression on her makes me feel fantastic," Hogan said. "Makes me really proud of what I do."

Hogan is now a nurse at Broward Health Coral Springs in Florida, while Willig works out of LIJ Valley Stream. Colleagues reflected on the significance of the reunion.

"It's the connection with the patient that makes us come back day after day," medical director Dr. Joseph Marino said.

Ironically, both women were recently named "nurse of the year," proof that a legacy of caring continues 25 years later.

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