Alexander’s Story

and the Lebonheur nicu

By Natalie Hill Cerpa

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This past winter (Updated: Winter of 2015), the LeBonheur NICU changed our lives, providing a home for our little family and making us aware of such a wonderful asset in this city.

Alfredo and I were due to have our first child in early January. We were going along, both working full time, me in my family’s business, he as an IT consultant, and on the side owning, operating, and expanding our own business, thinking we had plenty of time to prepare for the birth of our child and thinking that the only remaining surprise would be if the baby was a boy or
girl.

He appeared healthy at birth, kicking and screaming, good signs of life. We named him Alexander (the great, of course, to go along with his great size) and were advised that he would most likely stay in the hospital for a few weeks until he was a little bigger, eating well, and
growing ok. What a relief to know that although almost 8 weeks early, he was breathing on his
own and everything was looking good.

Until 3 days later, our world was again turned upside down when an x-ray showed that Alexander had an intestinal obstruction (likely the reason that he came so early) that would most likely need to be repaired through surgery.

Surgery! On a 4 day old! Unable to speak, my facial expression told all when talking with the doctor who was reading the x-ray. Our state of shock continued, but the doctor assured us that surgery on 4-day olds was fairly common for the Le Bonheur surgeons. Unbelievable. I looked at him with a raised eyebrow and blank stare, scared to death wondering how in the world this was gonna go down.

Natalie shares her story . . .

From that second, we had to give up all control and just trust that LeBonheur would take care of our little baby. It was so scary, especially for two people who are willing to take on any challenge. After transferring to Le Bonheur via ambulance, within minutes we were in a room with a team of folks in and out doing what they do. Not only were they taking care of Alexander, but they were also taking care of me and Alfredo, making sure we had everything we needed, as we stood there looking like deer in the headlights. We had multiple nurses in and out, arranging tests, getting Alexander hooked up to monitors. The neonatologists came to discuss the possibilities and outcomes. Then the surgery team came to discuss the plan and timeframes. There was someone there just to talk to me and Alfredo to make sure we understood everything that was going on.

 

Within a few hours, Alexander was in surgery, and afterward the surgeon came to report that it was very successful and that his recovery would be fairly textbook. The Neonatologist also came by to check on him later that evening. And of course, Alexander had his own personal nurse, who made sure he was taken care of while I sat there in shock, trying to recover from all the surprises of the past few days.

 

For the next month, we had to be very patient while his intestine healed. He was not able to eat for some time and remained on fluids to sustain nutrients. The hospital provided a breast pump so that I could continue storing milk for when the time came that he could eat. When that time came, we were able to work with a lactation consultant that helped Alexander and I learn how to nurse.

Alexander was frequently visited by physical therapists and nutritionists, in addition to daily visits from nurse practitioners, neonatologists and surgeons, all checking on his progress and to make sure all questions were answered. And of course, we had our own personal nurse who would basically wait on us hand and foot.

 

The nurses loved him like their own and when I did leave for short bits, I felt comfortable and relaxed while away, knowing he was in good hands. I NEVER once felt neglected nor had to ask for someone to help us or tend to us.

While we worked through the healing, I made our room
my home- clothes, food, laptop (managing my usiness from the room)… for the first time ever, I looked at living in a hospital as the one thing that was bringing me comfort in a very scary time in my life.

Within a few months, little Alexander was almost triple his birth weight and over 2 feet long and developmentally right on track with other babies his age. We were a little tired but so thankful that although he was small, we knew he would catch up and would go on to have a normal life all because of Le Bonheur.

 

 

 

I was able to stay right there in the room with him, to hear his every cry and begin to learn him, comfort and hold him, feed him, not letting this rough start keep us apart. All of these things that seem so routine for a new mom and baby were treasures that I will always cherish. All of it made possible by the LeBonheur NICU. Without this opportunity to live with my son, who was already off to a rough start, so much would be different today.

It’s not really just my story though that you need to hear- it’s all the other babies who are in the NICU now, have been, or will be with similar stories. Their parents can’t always be there due to work or other children, but these babies are cared for by a dedicated hospital staff. I watched with my own eyes as I walked the halls of the NICU, the little hands and feet reaching up out of the cribs, tended to so carefully and fastidiously, always with a smile, comforting hands, and lots of love.

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Thank you to everyone who contributes so much that allows for all of the hospital to do what they do. I can assure you the talent is superior, the dedication unwavering, and the hearts pure.

Walking the halls of the NICU, peering into each room reiterates that so many lives are touched and saved right here in our city. What an amazing place with such a loving atmosphere along with a very talented group of professionals who so seriously work towards improving our quality of life and putting smiles on faces of babies like Alexander and his parents.

Since they can’t talk, I’m going to say a little thank you from them.

Thank you to the paramedics who so carefully packed me up in a traveling incubator to keep me protected from the outside world while I traveled across the city.

Thank you to the ambulance driver who let my mom sit up front and who went to find my dad in the hospital lobby so he didn’t get lost.  Thank you to surgery team who communicated the plan within minutes of arrival.

  • Thank you to the many ultrasound and xray techs who transported me and worked with me (while screaming crying) to get the best picture possible. And especially to the one who spiked my hair with the ultrasound gel.
  • Thank you to the lab techs who pricked my little foot to test my blood and make sure I was healing ok.
  • Thank you to the surgeon who stayed late on a Friday night to perform a successful surgery.
  • Thank you to the anesthesiologist who wore the funny scrubs and made my mom laugh (while crying) just before taking me to surgery.
  • Thank you to the operating room nurse who gave my mom a little stuffed animal and called her during surgery to let her know I was doing ok.
  • Thank you to all of the floor nurses who cared for me every minute of the day, taking my blood pressure and temperature, helping my shocked mom learn how to change my diaper and give me a bath, making my bed cozy, and keeping my mom’s milk frozen for me to drink later.
  • Thank you to housekeeping who kept my room clean and made sure we had sheets and towels. Thank you to the volunteers who brought blankets and gowns to my room, and who hold and feed babies whose moms and dads can’t be there.
  • Thank you to the receptionist who reminds everyone to wash their hands before entering to protect the environment and keep it free of outside germs.
  • Thank you to Lactation consultant, who worked with me and my mom to accomplish the challenging feat of teaching me how to nurse.
  • Thank you to the neonatologists and the surgery team who visited me every day to stay up to date on my progress.
  • Thank you for all the tiny socks and hats and t-shirts Thank you for all the breast pump kits and bottles Most of all, thank you for giving my mom and dad comfort and security in a trying time.

Thanks to all of the donors, support people, and researchers for contributing so much that allows for all of the people above to do what they do. I can assure you that their talent is superior, their dedication unwavering, and their hearts pure. Walking the halls of the NICU, peering in each room, reiterates that so many lives are touched and saved right here in our city. What an amazing place with such a loving atmosphere along with a very talented group of professionals who very seriously work towards improving quality of life.

None of this could be a reality without organizations like the March of Dimes. Memphis – we have a treasure of a children’s hospital right in the middle of our City. March of Dimes helps keep places like LeBonheur full of all the right stuff that you will need in that moment when everything in your life changes. These changes impact moms, dads, and babies, and everyone surrounding and supporting them, like their families, their employers, and other local support organizations. Let’s walk together in support of all of these groups so that we can keep our city strong and smart- please join me and my family in a few weeks at the March for Babies, May 5th (cinco de mayo!).

Register to March for Babies on 05.05.18 Click Now!

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