As an Uber driver, Belinda Smith has had countless people sit on the backseat of her car. Mostly every trip begins and ends the same way. But when she had this new mom as a passenger, the end of their journey sparked the beginning of something beautiful between two strangers.
Nikki Ihus is a new mom from Kansas City who has been staying at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Florida. There, her son John Henry is being treated for a life-threatening condition called congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a rare birth defect where a baby is born with a hole in their diaphragm.
According to the American Pediatric Surgical Association, having this hole can cause organs from the abdomen to go through the open space in the chest cavity. This defect is so unique, that only 1 in every 4,000 babies are born with it.
Nikki decided to bring her baby to the St. Petersburg hospital because their CDH team is among the best in the country. Their brilliant doctors and the techniques they employed have brought their CDH survival rate to more than 90 percent.
That’s why even though they live in Kansas, the mother and son had to stay in Florida so John could get better. Because they are far from home and their belongings, Nikki needed to buy new clothes for her baby while they are in the hospital. She ordered an Uber to take her to Rhea Lana’s, a children’s clothing store.
That’s when she met her driver Belinda, and moments later, Nikki found herself venting to a complete stranger.
“She needed to talk and I was there to listen,” Belinda told WFTS. “People don’t listen anymore. I believe people get in my car for a reason other than a ride.”
Nikki was in a city where she didn’t have any friends and family, and the solitude left her feeling lonely and homesick.
“I hopped in the car and I think she could tell I wasn’t having the best day,” Nikki said.
Her story tugged at Belinda’s heart, who felt like she needed to do more than just be a listening ear.
“She told me her story. She was in tears a couple of times and I really felt for her,” she told WKRG.
When they arrived at Rhea Lana’s, the two said their goodbyes. But for Belinda, the trip ending that way didn’t feel right. She couldn’t get the thought of Nikki and her sick child out of her head, so she decided to do something to help.
“She touched my heart,” Belinda told WFTS. “So I parked the car and turned Uber off. I went in and I found her and said, ‘This is a day that should be fun for you. And you shouldn’t be alone. Let’s shop.’”
The two shopped for clothes and when Nikki was about to check out, Belinda had another surprise for her – she was going to pay for all the 30 items that Nikki had in her cart!
Nikki couldn’t help but cry for what her new friend just did.
“For this stranger to go completely out of her way – stop what she was doing and stop making money – to come be with me for a couple of hours while we shopped together, that was just incredible,” she said.
The two have kept in touch and Belinda even visited John in the hospital a week after she shopped with Nikki. Watch the feature video below courtesy of WFLA News Channel 8.