“The only Level III Neonatal ICU in the area with a neonatologist onsite 24/7.”
I was reading up about Henrico Doctors’ Hospital‘s reputation when I read that sentence. It sounded impressive. But I wondered, “What does that actually mean?”
It turns out that it’s a really big deal for the littlest ones among us. For those babies who might arrive very early or for those who might have complex or high-risk medical needs, that sentence could literally be a life-saver.
Level III means that Henrico Doctors’ Hospital’s team of highly-skilled newborn experts (neonatologists) are equipped and ready at a moment’s notice to provide specialized care to very little ones—even babies born before 30 weeks!
I tried to imagine what it would be like to have a baby so early.
I thought about the flood of emotions and concerns I’d have if I had to deliver a baby well before their due date. It would be incredibly hard for me to leave my newborn baby at the hospital regardless of the reason. But knowing I’d have to, there are two things that would give me some peace of mind:
- Knowing my baby was in a state-of-the-art facility, and
- Having complete confidence in the expertise of the hospital staff.
While I can only try to imagine that situation, Alice recently lived it.
Here’s her story:
I was admitted to Henrico Doctors’ Hospital at 25 weeks and 2 days because of severe preeclampsia. I was so sick that my daughter was born via emergency C-section less than 24 hours later to save my life.
My introduction to the NICU was extremely abrupt and pretty scary. I had never heard of babies born right on the cusp of viability, and I didn’t know what would happen to my 1 lb 6 oz baby girl.
I was wholly dependent on the staff of the NICU at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital to help me understand the situation and readjust to life with an extremely premature baby. Thankfully, they didn’t let me down.
At first, the biggest challenge was just looking at this tiny, fragile, struggling little human and not knowing how I could comfort her or help.
The NICU staff at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital always made sure to include her father and I in her care. They helped us learn to love her through the barrier of the isolette, and it made all the difference.
Now that we’ve been here 122 days, I have to say that my biggest challenges are being patient and learning to manage my expectations. Everyone who has worked with us in the hospital has helped us weather the roller coaster of prematurity by keeping us focused on our daily progress without losing sight of the bigger picture. It’s a heavy task, but they handle it very well.
The nurses have been phenomenal—as have all the doctors, therapists, surgeons, and specialists we’ve worked with!
We’ve known our little girl for over four months, yet she’s never lived anywhere outside the hospital. The staff there has really become her family, too. Being able to come and go as we please really helps us feel connected to her—that and sharing tasks like bathing her and picking out her outfits.
We’re looking forward to having our little family together at last—being able to look at her and pick her up and cuddle her whenever we want without having to leave the house to go see her. We’re looking forward to putting all this behind us and moving forward as a family.
As a new mom, parenthood and prematurity were both foreign concepts to me.
Having a highly skilled team of nurses and therapists around to show me how to handle and nurture my daughter has been a blessing. I no longer fear that I’m stumbling through the duties of parenthood. Their careful guidance has taught me so much about how to deal with all of her needs—medical and otherwise. I feel very confident about our ability to handle her care at home.
My advice to other moms who are just starting their journey as a NICU mom?
It’s cliché, but the best advice, truly, is to take things one day at a time. It can be so utterly overwhelming to deal with NICU life. It’ll break your spirit if you try to take it all in at once.
Trust in your baby’s resilience, but take care to mind your own. Once you leave the NICU for the day, try to disconnect from the stress of it and work on caring for yourself. And don’t let setbacks drag you down. Progress does happen, even if very slowly. Just breathe and tackle one tribulation at a time. It’s OK to be stressed, but try not to obsess! Things WILL get better.
This has been the longest, hardest, craziest, scariest, and most unexpected journey of our lives.
We are so thankful for our NICU “family” at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital for helping us through it. If it weren’t for the constant, genuine compassion we’ve been shown, I really don’t know how we could have done it! We won’t necessarily miss the NICU, but we will definitely miss the people here who have helped us so much.”
We’re so excited to announce that Amelée will be going home on Friday, June 16! Congratulations!
It’s no wonder after hearing stories like Alice’s that Henrico Doctors’ Hospital can say that more parents choose to have their baby there than any other hospital in the area.
In fact, my friend Carter recently chose to have her twins at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital. She told part of her birth story in a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch article. Though she had considered other area hospitals, being at Henrico Doctors’ ended up being an excellent choice:
…[Carter] was particularly glad they chose [Henrico Doctors’] because after her sons were born March 10, they needed to stay in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, for several weeks.
And the newborn care is only getting better!
The Richmond Times-Dispatch article also included details about the NICU renovations that are due to be completed in October 2017:
Right now, Henrico Doctors’ NICU has 10 rooms with two babies kept in each room. Once construction is done, the NICU will be centrally located in the Women’s Hospital with 40 private rooms.
If you haven’t seen the renovations that have already been completed, stop by for a visit. It’s a beautiful facility.