HEALTH

The Struggle and Miracle of Premature Birth

By Briana Vannozzi
Correspondent

New mom, Tiara Land, still has a hard time believing her two-month-old baby girl, Pheonix is alive and thriving.

“I was bleeding a lot and they didn’t know if it was coming from the baby or if it was coming from me, so they wanted to take her out because they didn’t want to lose me or her,” she said.

Pheonix was born prematurely at just 28 weeks weighing two pounds 11 ounces.

The NICU at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, and many others around the country, gives annual recognition to the struggle and miracle of premature babies.

“In the United States almost a half a million children are born prematurely every year,” Dr. Mark Hiatt, Director of Neonatology said.

It costs the health care system upwards of $26 billion a year. Hiatt says they’ve seen over 30,000 babies come through since it opened in 1978. Some of the babies come into the unit at just 23 or 24 weeks, and they’ll stay for up to three months.

“A lot of premature labor is started by infections or a combination of infections. There are non-specific things like stress, particularly women who are working, that may be associated with premature birth,” he said.

Smoking and lack of access to prenatal care have also been known factors for pre-term births.

“They said that there’s a possibility she’ll have complications with her eyesight and with her hearing. It was the scariest thing of my life,” Land said.

That’s why nurses provide continued education and support for families while they’re in and once they’re out.

“Discharge planning, going home, parents need to learn how to feed their babies and we spend a lot of time focusing on giving the parents the skills to do that,” Dolly Allen, neonatal clinical educator, said.

“Their whole expectation for the birth plan has really been destroyed. It’s a different event than what most women have imagined for themselves when they’ve had a baby, so there’s a lot of stress involved,” Annmarie Meredith, neonatology nurse manager, said.

It’s the only NICU in the state with a live camera for each baby.

“I put it right on my iPad and I watch everything that had to do with her and it was awesome. When I got home and I still couldn’t be here I got to watch her here, as well,” Land said.

Now, she’s 6 pounds and ready to go home.

“That’s the reason I named her Phoenix, because she just keeps arising from everything when it seemed like she wasn’t supposed to make it and she did,” Land said.

It’s the happy ending that almost wasn’t.