Most premature births happen with little or no warning. What expectant parents anticipated as a joyous occasion suddenly becomes their worst fear: their child’s fight for survival in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Thanks to advanced research, better technology and specially trained physicians and nurses, more premature infants than ever before are surviving this fight and becoming “miracle babies.”
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (BMSCH) at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) will celebrate these “miracle babies” and their families at the BMSCH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Reunion on Sunday, October 10 from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. at the Livingston Student Center at Rutgers University. The newly expanded and refurbished Livingston Student Center is located at 84 Joyce Kilmer Avenue in Piscataway.
BMSCH is inviting all families whose children received care in its NICU to come out and enjoy a day filled with music, games, rides, food and more! To register, please call 1-888-MD-RWJUH. For more information, please visit www.rwjuh.edu/NICU. The event is sponsored in part by the Caitlin Russell Foundation. Members of the media are invited to attend.
A NICU Parent’s Story
Premature infants often spend many days and weeks on the NICU until they are strong enough to breathe on their own and go home with their parents. Because of these long and often stressful hospital stays, it’s common for parents of premature babies to develop a strong bond with other parents who have had similar experiences, as well as the individuals who cared for their babies around the clock. Branchburg resident Amy DeGirolamo is no exception. Amy gave birth to premature twin boys at BMSCH in November 2007.
Although Amy experienced preterm births with her first two children, both babies were born healthy and had no complications. When she became pregnant with twins in 2006, she experienced contractions at 3 ½ months and doctors needed to implant a cerclage to close her cervix to prevent further contractions. Doctors also placed her in the high-risk category and began monitoring her closely.
Following an ultrasound, Amy received terrible news: the blood flow from the umbilical cord to her twins, Lucas and Lorenzo, was failing and Lorenzo’s kidneys, liver and brain were being compromised. Doctors told her that she must deliver her twins via emergency C-section at 29 weeks gestation. It was the only way she could save Lorenzo’s life.
“I went home and they gave me the weekend to prepare,” Amy recalled. “I had to explain what was happening to my two other children. I told them the babies would not come home right away. But I also said that the DiGirolamos are fighters and that things would be okay. I tried to prepare them as best as I could, but inside, I was a nervous wreck.”
Knowing there was a chance she could give birth prematurely; Amy toured the BMSCH NICU previously and drew strength from other parents and children on the unit.
“I wanted to know what to expect, so I toured the NICU,” she explained. “I met this tiny girl who was only 2 pounds, but she was such a fighter. Once I saw her, I knew I was going to be okay.”
Once Amy gave birth via C-section and saw her twin boys for the first time, fear set in again.
“Lucas was 14 ¾ inches long and weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces; while Lorenzo was 13 inches long and weighed only 2 pounds, 1 ounce,” she remembered. “I could see through Lorenzo’s skin. I asked myself, ‘How can this child possibly survive?’ ”
Lucas and Lorenzo both required lengthy stays and expert, round-the-clock care on BMSCH’s NICU. Lucas was able to come home after three months, while Lorenzo needed to stay six more weeks to fight the flu.
Although Lucas continued to gain weight, grow stronger and recover well, Lorenzo was not so fortunate. In the two years since his birth, Lorenzo has endured brain surgery, hernia repair surgery, and has fought through many gastrointestinal, respiratory and feeding issues. He was dependent on oxygen therapy for the first year of his life and needed extensive physical and speech therapy. After a long road filled with surgeries and endless visits to specialists, Lorenzo is just now able to eat regular food and has grown big enough to fit in clothes that are the same size as what his twin brother wears.
It has been a long road for Amy and her husband as well. The long-term care and recovery process left them drained emotionally and financially. They are only now getting back on their feet.
She is thrilled that her family will be able to attend Sunday’s reunion and that her boys can enjoy the day and play like any other boys their age. But more important, she looks forward to meeting with other families to share stories. Sharing her family’s ordeal and how they met the challenge is now a lifelong calling for Amy, who serves as a March of Dimes ambassador to raise awareness and encourage others to support research to prevent premature births and birth defects. As part of her ambassador role, she will chair the 2011 March for Babies Walk that will take place in Clinton next April. And she is willing and able to tell her story whenever the March of Dimes asks.
“I believe wholeheartedly that research funded by the March of Dimes is what saved my boys,” she explains. “I get to hug and kiss my boys every day because of the generous people who support the March of Dimes every year.”
Lucas and Lorenzo’s story has a happy ending. But Amy recognizes that not all families are as fortunate.
“I have heard stories with happy endings like my own and I have heard stories with tragic endings that left me in tears for hours,” she said. “Prematurity has a devastating effect on those who have been touched by it. It is my sole mission to raise awareness and put an end to pre-mature birth, still born babies and birth defects.”
About the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (BMSCH) at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) remains as the focal point of New Brunswick’s growing children’s health campus. As New Jersey’s largest free-standing, state-designated acute care children’s hospital, the state-of-the-art facility is specially designed to care for children. BMSCH has nearly 10,000 inpatient admissions and 22,000 pediatric emergency room visits annually.
From pediatric surgery, urology and cardiology to oncology, hematology and pulmonology, BMSCH’s specialists and intensivists provide advanced care for children of all ages—from fragile newborns to adolescents.
BMSCH consistently ranks among the top-rated children’s hospitals in America for patient satisfaction. In fact, BMSCH’s patient satisfaction scores are in the top 1 percent of all children’s hospitals nationwide.
As an academic hospital, BMSCH is able to draw upon the resources of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, one of the nation’s leading comprehensive medical schools. To learn more about BMSCH, please visit www.bmsch.org.