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Mother fights through tragedy to graduate as a nurse with a renewed purpose

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     PORT ST. LUCIE, FL (WPTV) — A local mom graduated from nursing school at the Fortis Institute Tuesday night, but her path to the graduation day was filled with challenges much bigger than bookwork and tests.

Shayna Berkowitz, 24, celebrated becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse with her fiancé and her young son, Mason.

“You have no idea how great today felt,” Berkowitz said.

But, it was a family celebration that wasn’t quite complete. They were missing one part of their family.

Berkowitz was in her final semester of nursing school when she gave birth to her daughter, Madison.

“She was perfect. 6 pounds 8 ounces, absolutely perfect,” Berkowitz said.

Finishing school with a newborn baby posed its own challenges.

“I had maybe six weeks left before I had to take my exit exams,” Berkowitz explained.

But, the stress of school soon became the least of her worries.

Madison was just days old when Berkowitz checked on her one morning.

“I went to go feed her and she was just purple. Lifeless … I literally just got up and started doing CPR and told my fiancé to call 911,” Berkowitz said.

Madison couldn’t be saved.

“She had an infection that was unbeknownst to anyone.”

Her teachers became a support system urging her to take time to cope, despite the pressure she put on herself to keep working towards graduating.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it. It’s just not something anyone is capable of doing,” Berkowitz.

She returned after a three-month break, finishing school with more motivation to do the job she was working toward. She wants to help and work with moms and babies.

“Just having that fire to want to help other women, other families be on the lookout for this,” Berkowitz described.

She has also created a fundraiser to honor Madison through an organization, ironically, called Madison’s Miracles.

Madison’s Miracles helps donate ‘Cuddle Cots’ which are designed to help preserve a baby’s body a little longer after passing. This way, grieving families can spend a little extra time with the infant before laying them to rest.

Berkowitz is raising money to dedicate a Cuddle Cot in Madison’s honor.

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