Both my daughters spent the first few days of their lives in the NICU. Watching the teeny-tiny love of your life hooked up to countless chirping monitors and, in the case of my babies, subjected to countless blood draws, is a heartbreaking thing -- and I'll never forget the feeling of relief and joy that washed over me when I was told we could go home.
Given my experience, a piece on the Healthier, Happy Lives Blog from earlier this week grabbed my attention. It introduces readers to three toddlers who also spent time in the NICU and recently celebrated their health at the 35th Annual NICU Reunion at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. Among them is 17-month-old Francis Bartolome, and his story -- as told in the piece -- is a dramatic one:
Mildred [Francis' mom] first began experiencing problems during her pregnancy at week 17 when her water broke unexpectedly. At 23 weeks she was admitted to the hospital, and one month later she had an emergency C-section due to complications with Francis’s umbilical cord.
Mildred remembers the first time she and her husband visited Francis in the NICU.
'He was in the room by the door, and we saw him,' Mildred says. He looked so tiny, and [I thought] ‘My God! It’s our baby. Is he really our baby? He is so tiny.’ I couldn’t imagine how tiny my baby was.'
Francis had a breathing tube in his mouth, as well as a feeding tube and catheter connected to his umbilical cord.
'I didn’t get to hold him until seven days after he was born, because I was scared to hold him, because he was so tiny,' Mildred says. 'I was scared of those tubes, they might come out.'
Born at 2 pounds 6 ounces, Francis wound up being in the hospital for five months. But these days Francis, who his parents call their miracle baby, is crawling on his hands and knees and enamored with balls and his dog, Aloha.
“We are so blessed and grateful that we have a healthy, happy and thriving toddler who brings us constant joy to our lives," says his mom. "The doctor, nurses, and everyone that touched our lives, we are thankful for them.”
Previously: Helping families navigate the NICU and Counseling parents of the earliest-born preemies: A mom and two physicians talk about the challenges
Photo of Bartolome family courtesy of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford