My husband and I are honored to stand here with our daughter. We speak to you today as the proud parents of a NICU graduate.
Nothing with my pregnancy with our daughter Gillian was easy or considered normal. I was diagnosed with pregnancy induced hypertension 19 days after finding out I was pregnant and taken out of work. I was put on medication and told to go home to relax. At 14 weeks I was advised that I was high risk for having a premature baby. My doctor didn’t really offer information on preemies; most baby books don’t have a very elaborate preemie section so I sought comfort with the March of Dimes website. Because of this site I knew the terms that doctors used, knew what questions to ask and was able to seek comfort in success stories. This website helped me feel that I still had some control over a situation that was completely out of my control.
The blood pressure medicine and my bed rest only went so far and just shy of the 25 week mark I developed preeclampsia. I was admitted to CVPH then transported to Fletcher Allen; the doctors didn’t feel that I was getting sick rapidly so I was released with the hopes that I would make it another month. I made it 4 days and was admitted again, this time being told that I was not leaving until after my daughter was born. At 26 weeks 3 days my kidneys were showing the signs of failing and I was told that my daughter had to be delivered. The doctors had warned us that although I had received the two steroid shots to help her lungs develop faster that she would not be able to cry when she was born. Gillian was born crying, her cry gave my husband and I the greatest hope to start the NICU journey.
Our excitement was short lived as we got use to life in the NICU. The first time I was able to meet my daughter was when she was two days old and I had to be wheeled into the NICU. Nothing prepares a parent to see their baby in a NICU. The noises from all the machines, the staff working diligently with all the babies, all the wires and being surrounded by so many babies fighting for their lives is beyond overwhelming. Even with everything going on, I saw the most beautiful baby in the world. It was heart breaking to not be able to hold her.
Gillian was born weighing 1lb 12 ozs and 14.5 inches long. During her first few days she received treatments founded by the March of Dimes – surfactant to help her lungs inflate and nitric oxide to help her blood absorb oxygen. She was intubated for the first 33 days of her life and received 7 blood transfusions during her hospital stay. When Gillian was 6 days old I was discharged from the hospital. Walking from the maternity floor to our car in the parking garage at Fletcher Allen was the longest walk I had ever taken. Gillian and I should have left together but my arms were empty and I struggled to hold the tears in. Her NICU stay was the roller coaster ride we had been advised to expect – infections, procedures and waiting. After 93 days of waiting and hoping, Gillian came home. It was one of the happiest days of our lives.
Our journey with prematurity did not end when we walked out of the NICU that day which is what we had first expected. The first 3 years of Gillian’s life was spent meeting with doctors, speech therapists and physical therapists to make sure that Gillian caught up with her age group. We celebrated the successes and with every set back we hoped for a success in the near future to get us through.
Today, we can proudly stand here and tell you that Gillian has beaten the odds. She is a healthy, strong 4 year old girl that when compared to other children her age does not show any signs of her premature past. It is through the work that the March of Dimes does that gave our daughter this possibility.
We hope that you will continue to support the March of Dimes so that one day all babies are born healthy.