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Monday, June 17, 2024

Teen mom of triplets finds forever home with NICU nurse

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Shariya Small was adopted by Katrina Mullens who has five other children in February 2023

Katrina Mullens, a nurse, first noticed 14-year-old Shariya Small when she consistently arrived at Community Hospital North alone to visit the triplets that she had recently given birth to in the NICU.

“I just became her NICU mom. She would try to find me when I was at work if I wasn’t taking care of the babies. I just noticed how quiet she was. She’d get dropped off at the hospital and spend two, three, four days sometimes just sleeping at their bedside,” said Mullens.

The triplets, Sarayah, Serenitee and Samari were premature and spent close to five months in the NICU.

Mullens said she’d seen plenty of teen moms throughout her nursing career, but they’d usually be at least sixteen.

She herself was a teen mom and related to Small.

Mullens extended an olive branch to the young mother, saying she’d love to still keep in contact to know how the triplets are growing.

They exchanged phone numbers after discharge.

They started talking every day.

“She would facetime me and text me and call me to ask me questions. Samari had feeding issues so he couldn’t eat by mouth. He couldn’t have a bottle, so he ended up getting a feeding tube in his stomach before going home,” said Mullens.

She didn’t know much about Small’s home situation, but the teen mom and her triplets were living with a family member.

They didn’t have a bedroom.

Mullens went to visit the family to check in at least twice.

“I went baring gifts. I got them some clothes and bottles and bibs that she needed. I was concerned about their sleeping situation with the babies, and I noticed that Samari was very skinny. She told me that he wasn’t tolerating his food and throwing up a lot since he’d been home,” said Mullens.

The triplet was covered in eczema flare-ups which indicated to the nurse that he may have a milk allergy.

After encouraging Small to visit her pediatrician, the baby was admitted to Riley Hospital for Children.

Small didn’t have anybody to watch the girls while she was at the hospital with Samari. She asked Mullens who agreed as she just so happened to be on vacation that week.
He was diagnosed as a failure to thrive.

The Indiana Department of Child Services was called.

Since Mullens had the girls, she was informed that a DCS case worker would be stopping by to visit them.

“I was informed that all four of them were being removed from their home and that they were going to be placed in foster care. They said that Shariya wanted to come live with me. We hadn’t discussed it. I was dumbfounded for a moment, but I said yes,” said Mullens.

She wasn’t a foster parent, but DCS said if she were willing to take the teen and her babies in, they would handle the rest on their end to equip the family.

Mullens has five boys of her own, three of whom still live with her.

Knowing that it would have been hard to find a foster home that would take all four of them and adding Samari’s medical issues, she didn’t want to see them split up.

It’s been two years now, and Mullens adopted Small at the beginning of the year.
“She doesn’t call me mom. I just became her permanent person.

She doesn’t have to worry about ever being alone. She has a place to grow, and she’s done amazing since she’s been with me,” said Mullens.

The 17-year-old is planning on attending college.

Contact senior staff writer Jade Jackson at 317-607-5792. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON

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