It was Thanksgiving week, and a trip to the doctor was the last thing Amanda Rodriguez wanted. She was busy with studies, in the midst of her third year of a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She had three kids at home, all about to be on holiday. And she was happily pregnant with her fourth child, which had slowed her pace ever so slightly.
Though mild, the symptoms of what Amanda thought was a UTI compelled her to get things checked out. While this pregnancy had been smooth, Amanda had suffered five miscarriages in addition to delivering her three children. She did not want to take any chances with the health of the son growing inside her. That is why Amanda had sought out the caregivers at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, which has an array of lauded OB-GYN physicians affiliated with its Labor and Delivery Department, as well as a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She felt Providence Holy Cross was the right hospital to oversee her pregnancy and deliver her child.
Amanda’s pregnancy was just shy of six months. When her physician at Providence Holy Cross suspected that there was more going on than just a simple UTI, Amanda started praying to God that she would not have another miscarriage. Further testing revealed that there were indeed irregularities with her pregnancy. Her clinicians were talking about having her remain under observation and on bed rest until her due date, which was more than three months away. But before any plan was formalized, Amanda’s condition changed.
Her caregivers started detecting small contractions, so small she could not even feel them. Before she knew it, Amanda was almost fully dilated. Her doctors told her that they had no choice but to deliver her son Andrew at age 24 weeks, near the earliest point at which a premature baby can be safely delivered. And because Andrew was coming feet first, the doctors would be delivering him by C-section.
As a dedicated nursing student, Amanda was deeply aware of the risks involved in such a delivery, but the strength and confidence of her doctors and nurses helped her remain calm. She said a final prayer as her caregivers wheeled her into the delivery room.
The delivery was a success, and Andrew was sent straight to the NICU. As soon as she stabilized, Amanda wanted to see him. She knew that the first 24 hours were critical for preemies as young as Andrew: if he did not have a stable heart rate, good respiration and strong brain activity, he likely would not survive.
The first time she saw him in the NICU, Andrew seemed to be covered with tubes and needles. Though his vitals were good, Amanda could not handle the sight of so much technology keeping her son alive. She went back to her room crying.
Nonetheless, as soon as she was discharged, Amanda returned to the NICU and set up a daily routine of visits to Andrew that she religiously kept. While his condition was stable, there were challenges facing his healthy development, and Amanda wanted to be there for every step of the journey. “I told myself, I had to give positive energy towards him to help him grow,” she said.
Throughout this process, Amanda became close with the NICU’s nurse manager Patty Moreno and the other nurses and doctors in the unit. Patty made a point to routinely inform Amanda of Andrew’s progress. They were both gratified to see that he was a fighter. Andrew had a digestion problem in his first week, but managed to recover on his own with minimal intervention.
Further into his NICU stay, a more serious challenge arose. Andrew began struggling with his respiration, and his oxygen levels became perilously low. Amanda, who before this pregnancy had not been especially religious, went to Providence Holy Cross’s Chapel and prayed, “please God, do what you have to do so that my son survives.” Not long after, one of the NICU nurses ran to the chapel to let Amanda know that Andrew’s oxygen levels were back up: he was out of danger. Amanda was overwhelmed with gratitude.
As Andrew’s stay lengthened into the Christmas season, the doctors in the NICU were surprised to note that he opened his eyes much earlier than most preemies his age, and he was always smiling. Though her daily trips to Providence Holy Cross posed logistical challenges for her husband and three kids, they all believed that Amanda’s presence was helping see Andrew through his many challenges.
Throughout, Andrew was too fragile for Amanda to hold, which was why Christmas that year was so special. Patty told Amanda to put on a gown, and brought Andrew for her to hold for the first time. At that point, Amanda knew he was going to be okay.
Andrew spent almost three months in the Providence Holy Cross NICU before he was healthy enough to go home. The doctors and nurses taught Amanda how to safely feed and care for Andrew throughout that time. Amanda credits Patty and the other NICU caregivers for being there for her mentally and emotionally during her intense journey.
Leaving Andrew in the hands of those caregivers was a big vote of trust for Amanda, and she is pleased to say that they earned that trust and then some. “They were amazing. I can’t thank that NICU enough for helping me have my baby. They performed a miracle for him,” she said.
Today, Andrew is an active and healthy toddler who brightens his family every day. “Pediatricians can’t believe he was a preemie,” says Amanda.
As for Amanda herself, her experience at Providence Holy Cross helped her find clarity on a major decision. After years of not knowing what to choose for her nursing study concentration, Amanda knew exactly what she wanted to focus on once Andrew had recovered. She plans to be a NICU nurse, and is charting a path towards the final stages of her studies accordingly.