Our son, Carter, was born at 26 weeks due to complications from preeclampsia.
Despite his very weak lungs, pulmonary hypertension, and too many other complications to list here, he fought every day for 6 months to give us hope of tomorrow.
Although his time with us was way too short, his story touched the lives of hundreds of people…family, friends, and friends of friends that we didn’t even know. His time here also opened our eyes up to a world that we knew existed but had absolutely no idea what it was like.
We are so blessed to have been able to start our journey with Carter at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, and the reasons listed here will probably fall short of fully explaining why.
Kelli was admitted to the hospital during Carter’s 25th week.
Her blood pressure had gotten very high, and the doctors felt that she needed to stay at the hospital until it was under control.
By the end of our first night there, we realized she most likely would not be going home until after he was born, so the staff in Labor & Delivery did their best to make sure we were as comfortable as possible.
They moved us from one of the smaller rooms to one with a lot more space. They allowed us to bring in a small air mattress since we also had Kelli’s mother with us. And most importantly, they did whatever they could to help us emotionally.
In addition to the risk of Carter arriving early, we were also faced with the even larger concern of losing Carter, losing Kelli, or losing both of them.
There were a number of other expectant mothers they also had to tend to, but their conversations with us, their genuine concern, and their limitless availability made us feel like we were the only ones on the floor. We are forever grateful for the comfort, compassion, and guidance they provided for us during what was (at the time) the scariest moment of our lives.
After 2 nights in the hospital, doctors diagnosed Kelli with preeclampsia based on blood pressure readings from the umbilical cord as well as Kelli’s high blood pressure and high protein levels in her blood. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery, but we needed to keep Carter with Kelli as long as we could.
We woke up the next three days with doctors telling us that today could be the day. But our goal was always just to make it another 12 hours since every minute helps.
After the 5th night in the hospital, the doctors finally said today was the day.
Carter was born at 2:42 pm on Monday, March 7, 2016, via emergency C-section.
Two days prior to Carter’s birth, the NICU director came to our room and spoke with us about what to expect. He took the time to listen to our concerns and answer any questions we had, knowing very well that we would have so many more questions in the days, weeks, and months to come. This was our first indication that Carter was going to be in very good hands.
Up until that point, we knew nothing about the NICU except that there were those “incubator machines” and babies that needed help. We quickly found out that the doctors and nurses that work in Henrico’s NICU realize that it is a foreign world for most parents that come in there, and they do an excellent job to help ease the parents and guide them through the NICU experience.
Additionally, and most importantly, we were part of the team. Our questions and suggestions were welcomed. The NICU staff, with their degrees, certificates, and years of experience, would still ask us, “What do you think?” We fully trusted them to know the medicine and science, but they fully trusted us to know our child. Therefore, our input was just as important as theirs.
We would visit Carter multiple times each day. And we quickly climbed the learning curve as we tried to understand the challenges our son was facing.
Prior to walking through the doors of the NICU…
We really didn’t know about or give much thought to things like brain bleeds, FiO2, patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), abdominal perforation, pulmonary hypertension, jet ventilators, nitrous oxide, blood gases, and so much more. The NICU staff was there every step of the way to help us understand, and, just like our experience in L&D, we felt like we were the only ones there. Obviously, we weren’t, as there were plenty of other babies and parents that we met, but we felt so special when it mattered.
In addition to understanding the medical challenges, they helped Carter reach significant milestones such as the first time we got to hold him (when he was 4 weeks old), changing his diaper, giving him a bath, giving him tastes of milk with a dropper, moving from an isolette to a crib, getting a mobile on his crib for visual and auditory stimulation, letting him enjoy time in a bouncy seat, and so many more events.
Despite his medical needs, they allowed us to be his parents and enjoy our time with him which was the best gift they could have given us. The team at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital was absolutely amazing. We are forever grateful for their efforts to give us our time with Carter.
But his health eventually got to the point that he needed more help than they could provide.
They gave us the pros and cons and helped us make the difficult decision to take him to UVA Medical Center Charlottesville. We looked at other places, and UVA was the only place that gave us the impression that they would take care of Carter as well as had been done at Henrico Doctors Hospital.
Without a doubt, we would trust Henrico Doctors Hospital if we were ever faced with that again, and we would encourage anyone expecting a baby to put them at the top of their list.
Kelli, from Huntington, WV, is a graduate of Marshall University. Matt is from Richmond, VA and is a graduate of Virginia Tech. They’ve been married since the summer of 2014. Kelli has spent most of her adult life either coaching or in admissions for higher level education. She currently works at the University of Richmond. Matt also has a career in education and has been teaching math to middle school students in Chesterfield County for over 10 years. They are the proud parents of a 13-year-old girl and lost their 6-month-old son in September of 2016.
We are so honored that Kelli and Matt shared their story with us.