HOW IT ALL BEGAN…
A FATHER’S REFLECTION
June 1, 2001 was the day that changed my life forever. My wife, Debra, became seriously ill with HELLP Syndrome and our first baby, Matthew, had to be delivered at 28 weeks by an emergency c-section. Matthew was born weighing 2 pounds 8 ounces and was rushed immediately to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for life-saving care. I quickly came face to face with the scary reality of the NICU, as it was Matthew’s home for the next 2 long and exhausting months. Nothing could have prepared me for how many times my family would revisit the NICU.
Every day in the NICU was like a rollercoaster ride, emotionally, physically and financially. At rounds, I received daily updates on Matthew’s condition. I had to learn a new language to understand my son’s world. Most times, however, the news was so overwhelming that I couldn’t process what the doctors were saying. Ventilators, apneas, brain scans, central feeding lines—my mind was a blur. Balancing work, home life and NICU visits seemed insurmountable. Guilt and fear overcame me as I stood helplessly beside Matthew’s isolette while he struggled to survive. In the NICU, I came to appreciate the preciousness of every moment of every day. Thankfully, Matthew has grown into a strong and healthy young boy.
While this experience should have been enough to last a lifetime, it was not long before our family was back in the NICU. Our next pre-maturity experience turned tragic. Two years later, our niece, Hailey, was born at 21 weeks, weighing only 12 ounces, as my sister-in-law, Donna, also suffered from a severe case of HELLP Syndrome. Hailey’s tiny body struggled to survive but she lost her battle and passed away shortly after birth. God gained an angel that day.
Since then, our families have been blessed with eight additional babies, seven of whom were hospitalized in the NICU with serious complications. Fortunately, they made it through. The extraordinary care our babies received from the NICU doctors and nurses as well as the gestures of kindness from strangers touched us profoundly. As a result, we wanted to use what we learned through our loss and experiences to help other NICU families. Please know you are not alone on this journey.
Many blessings from our family to yours.