A true miracle. That’s what Rush neonatologist Lina Sapiegiene, MD, called Madison, a baby who spent the first 103 days of her life under the expert care of Rush Copley’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU.
Madison was born seven weeks prematurely with hydrops, a condition that occurs when large amounts of fluid accumulate in the baby’s tissues and organs, causing extreme swelling. It was unlikely she would survive.
Madison’s mom, Cecily Avila of Aurora, had experienced a normal pregnancy – and then she unexpectedly went into preterm labor at 33 weeks. “The baby was in grave danger,” said Dr. Sapiegiene. More than two thirds of babies with this condition do not survive after birth. Her chest cavity was filled with fluid.
At Rush Copley, three teams came together to care for her: obstetrical, maternal-fetal medicine and neonatal. The maternal-fetal medicine team used guided ultrasound to drain fluid from the baby’s chest while she was still in the womb. Madison was born two hours later. She weighed six pounds but more than a pound and a half of that was excess fluid. Her chest had filled again.
One Step at a Time
At delivery, the NICU team raced to establish Madison’s airway, drain excess fluid and oxygenate and ventilate her lungs. In critical condition, she was on a ventilator and her hospital room was full of machines, IV pumps and drains. “It was one step at a time,” Dr. Sapiegiene said as the medical team focused on getting Madison through the first minutes, the first hour and then the first 24 hours of life. Nearly every part of her body was affected by the hydrops, but little by little, she started to improve.
The first week was the hardest for Madison’s parents, Cecily and Dylan. “Madison wasn’t seeming to get better,” Cecily remembered, “and we were trying to come to terms with losing our child. But soon we saw a change in the doctors and in Madison – and that was hope and a miracle. She is truly a strong girl.”
Typically, care in the NICU is one nurse to one or two babies. In Madison’s case, she was assigned two nurses because her care was so intense – and sometimes additional nurses were called in. Major concerns were helping her breathe and feeding her – she was not tolerating fats. Cecily helped her baby by providing her breast milk which was given to Madison through a feeding tube. “Breast milk is like medicine for premature babies,” Dr. Sapiegiene said. The breast milk had to be skimmed to remove the fat.
A Healing Place
Rush Copley’s Level III NICU was critical to Madison’s survival, bringing together the care she needed including skilled, dedicated nurses, respiratory therapists and cardiologists. For the first 10 days, Madison required the maximum support of high-tech equipment with staff at her bedside 24 hours a day.
The state-of-the-art Level III NICU is a “comprehensive healing place that provides comfort and privacy” to patients and their families, Dr. Sapiegiene explained. Rush Copley nurses and physicians provide advanced treatments and beside vigilance so newborns and pediatric patients can thrive and grow. Rush Copley has the only designated Level III NICU in the Fox Valley and each year provides intensive medical attention to approximately 350 newborns who are premature or have birth defects.
Without the Level III NICU, Madison would have been transported to another facility – which would have jeopardized her condition even further. “It would have been difficult to transport her,” the neonatologist said. “She was so fragile.”
Great Care – and More
Madison’s parents were happy she didn’t need a transfer. With a toddler at home, it was much easier for them to visit with her close by. “They were thrilled we could keep her here,” said Louise Fazio, MSN, RNC-NIC, clinical nurse manager of the NICU.
They were also grateful for the care their baby received – and her good outcome. They praised the NICU nurses.
“Dylan and I were so happy with support they gave not only to Madison but to us as well,” Cecily said of the care team at Rush Copley. “Not only were they Madison’s nurses, but they truly became our family over the three months we were there. Madison is doing amazing now and we couldn’t appreciate them more for saving her life.”