NICU Patient Stories at the University of Colorado Hospital

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) has treated thousands of premature and ill newborns. Here are a few stories from parents of babies treated at the UCH NICU.

Megan - The Best Christmas Gift Ever

Tom and Jane St Amand, both employees at the University of Colorado Hospital, never expected to spend their daughter’s first few months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University of Colorado Hospital. At 20 weeks gestation, Jane’s cervix had begun to dilate, so she was placed on bed rest for four weeks in the University of Colorado Hospital’s Women’s Care Center. Jane delivered Megan, 24 weeks gestation, on August 28, 2009. Megan weighed just 1 lb 2 oz and measured 11 inches long.

Megan was immediately admitted to the NICU at the University of Colorado Hospital where she faced a series of medical complications, including a patent ductus arterious (PDA), a heart problem affecting some infants shortly after birth. As a result, she required surgery two weeks of age. Megan was also treated for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a gastrointestinal disease in which portions of the bowel tissue die, and was on an oscillator (a device that keeps the lungs open and helps diffuse gases quickly) and then a conventional ventilator, for a long time. Then she was weaned to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open via a face mask, and eventually a nasal cannula, a device that delivers air via a tube connected to the nose. While at the NICU, she was monitored for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disease that affects some preemies. During the entire four-month stay, Tom and Jane felt supported and trusted the care their daughter received.

On Christmas Eve, after months in the NICU, Megan was discharged. Tom and Jane took their “miracle baby” home and said it was the best Christmas gift ever! While Megan required oxygen, a pulse oximeter, and a monitor during her first months at home, she was on the mend.

With close follow-up by the University of Colorado Hospital’s Dr. Adam Rosenberg, Megan was gradually taken off her oxygen after one year and was released by her ophthalmologist, Dr. Rebecca Braverman, because she is free of ROP.

While the St Amands hoped that Megan’s challenges were over, at the age of three her airway wasn’t growing adequately, and she required a laryngotracheoplasty—an upper airway reconstructive procedure. Megan underwent the procedure at Children’s Hospital Colorado, the University of Colorado Hospital’s partner at the Colorado Institute for Maternal & Fetal Health. Megan spent three weeks in the hospital.

Today Megan is a tiny but vibrant four-year-old who recently began talking and graduated from preschool. Her parents are grateful for the care she received at the NICU at the University of Colorado Hospital and during her first few years of life.

Joey - The Fighter

After suffering severe heartburn and stomach pain, Layne DeLucio was transferred to the University of Colorado Hospital and diagnosed with preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening liver disorder. Layne recalls the doctors and nurses going the extra mile to walk her through her diagnosis, answer her questions, and help her understand what the next steps would be — a special touch she would value during her time at the hospital.

Three days after being admitted to the University of Colorado Hospital, Layne delivered her 1 pound, 3 ounce son Joey who was just 25 weeks gestation. “He was smaller than a venti coffee from Starbucks,” DeLucio recalls.

While Joey was given a small chance of survival or leading a healthy life, he was a fighter. As soon as he arrived at the NICU at the University of Colorado Hospital, a tube was inserted into Joey’s mouth and he was given compounds known as surfactants—a mixture of fat and protein—to coat the lungs, helping them develop a little easier as premature babies are often born with low amounts of surfactant which leads to poor lung function. When he was three days old, he had a grade-four intraventricular hemorrhage—excessive bleeding in his brain—and was put onto an oscillator ventilator, a device that keeps the lungs open and helps diffuse gases quickly. While Joey continued to fight and was gradually weaned off the ventilator, the nursing staff, physicians, respiratory therapist, and physical therapist at the NICU monitored him carefully, ensuring that he received everything he needed to develop properly, recalls his mother. She was informed every step of the way.

“The doctors would come speak with me daily about his progression,” DeLucio says. “We would watch his CT scans as the intraventricular hemorrhage slowly disappeared on its own.”

Sixteen weeks after being born, Joey, who was then 6 pounds, 7 ounces, was able to go home on oxygen. He had no signs of the intraventricular hemorrhage.

Joey is now an energetic and independent three-year-old. He loves the outdoors, going to the zoo, swimming, and playing with other children his age. The only residual effects of his prematurity is asthma, which occurred as a result of the chronic lung disease, and unilateral hearing loss, which he would have most likely developed even as a full-term baby.