Resources available for families of NICU babies
At 28 weeks pregnant, Lauren Christopher, 41, stopped feeling her baby move. She went to Inova Fair Oaks Hospital (IFOH), where her doctor discovered she had low amniotic fluid and poor blood flow through the umbilical cord.
A week later, her doctor determined she would have to prematurely deliver. Alan Silk, MD, a neonatologist with Fairfax Neonatal Associates at IFOH, assuaged her worries about having a preterm birth. “Immediately, he put me at ease,” Lauren says. “He just had a very calming demeanor.”
Lauren’s son, Zachary Reinsma, was born 11 weeks early on Friday, March 23, 2018. He weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces.
Zachary is now a healthy baby boy at home with his mother and father. But after he was born, Lauren and her partner, Justin Reinsma, 45, faced a trying three-month journey.
Trouble Early On
After about a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at IFOH, Zachary’s heart rate and respiratory rate plummeted. Though doctors weren’t initially sure what had happened, they later discovered Zachary had an infection.
Over the next few months, doctors, nurses and specialists, including occupational and physical therapists, in the NICU worked to help Zachary grow and gain weight. They also provided him with respiratory support, as his lungs were not yet fully developed.
“During the whole experience, I was so impressed by the doctors and the nurses,” Lauren says. “It never felt like they were holding back information or talking down to you. From the very beginning, the hospital wanted the parents to be well-educated and well-informed.”
Lauren, who manages grant programs for the federal government and lives in Reston, Virginia, visited Zachary every day for three months. Justin was able to visit evenings thanks to the NICU’s 24/7 access. Lauren says the bonds she developed with IFOH NICU nurses and doctors were truly special. IFOH felt like her new home.
“After a while, I realized that as much as I was there for Zachary, in a way, I was also getting treatment,” she says. “Because even though they didn’t put it this way to me, looking back, it was a form of emotional support. It felt like an extended family [at IFOH].”
Zachary was discharged on June 18 after nearly tripling his birth weight. Dr. Silk says he felt a particularly strong bond with Lauren and Justin because Zachary was in the NICU for so long.
“We all worked together to get the baby healthy and to get the baby in good enough condition to go home so they could take care of him,” Dr. Silk says. “They’re a really nice family. I’m super-pleased and satisfied that the baby is doing well.”
Support All Around for Preemies
March of Dimes, a national nonprofit that supports families dealing with premature birth, has family support specialists at IFOH. Dr. Silk, a neonatologist at IFOH, says the hospital is lucky to be one of the few NICUs in the country with March of Dimes support on-site.
Lauren Christopher found the hospital’s March of Dimes support invaluable. One day, she hit an emotional low point. One March of Dimes family support specialist told Lauren about her personal struggles, as her own son was born with infantile cancer.
Lauren says hearing about how other people had been through much worse and made it through put everything into perspective for her. “It helped me realize that I could go home and be with my family, even though Zachary was at the hospital, because of how much I trusted the doctors, nurses and specialists,” she says. “I knew they had his back when I wasn’t there.”
The NICU Helps Babies Grow