From Caregivers to “Family”: One Woman’s NICU Story
When Kate and Stefan’s twins entered the world, the couple knew their lives were about to change but they had no idea the many ways how.
Alex and Avery were born premature on December 23, 2018 and weighed 1.6 pounds and 1.7 pounds respectively. They were immediately transported to Holy Redeemer’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
As the babies were stabilized, the doctors carefully explained everything. Kate and Stefan would need to prepare themselves for a long NICU journey. The couple was in the process of moving and their home was hours away. They would need accommodations in the area to stay close to their babies. The Sisters of the Redeemer offered the Province Center as refuge. Grateful for the offer, Kate was able to secure accommodations at a nearby Marriott.
Under the watchful eye of Holy Redeemer’s NICU nurses and doctors, the tiny twins fought to grow stronger. But Alex was struggling and became ill. On December 29, he was transported to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for specialized treatment. Not only were Kate and Stefan away from their home, but now their babies were being treated in two different locations.
“We were thrown into a complex situation and had no idea what we were doing,” Kate said.
Kate and Stefan spent Monday through Saturday at the NICU and slept at their hotel. On Sundays they would go back home to New Jersey to wash clothes and pack for the following week. Kate says the only comfort she had on Sundays was knowing that the NICU nurses were keeping watch over her babies. When given the chance to transfer the twins closer to home, both Kate and Stefan refused. They knew their son and daughter were receiving the best care imaginable.
“The nurses became our family December 2018.They coached us and helped us navigate the care process. Everything from medical paperwork to basic premature baby care. It was incredible,” Kate said. One evening the NICU nurses surprised Kate and Stefan with a homemade lasagna. As they sat down to enjoy their first home cooked meal in weeks, they cried tears of gratitude. The simple gesture meant the world to the NICU couple.
As 2019 began, Kate adjusted to becoming a new mom. Avery was making a lot of progress but Alex was still ill at CHOP. On January 9th, shortly after Alex’s godparents had the chance to meet him, he passed away.
“Avery gained an angel that day. I know her brother is looking down on her,” Kate said. Kate’s NICU family didn’t leave her side. The nursing staff sat with her, talked with her and helped her through the grieving process while supporting baby Avery each day. Kate felt surrounded by sisters, mothers and friends.
“If it wasn’t for them I don’t’ know what we would have done,” Kate said.
By March, Kate had become a staple in Holy Redeemer’s NICU. While she was excited for the day she could bring Avery home, she almost didn’t want to leave. The staff had become such a part of her and Avery’s life, but the day finally arrived when Kate, Stefan and Avery could go back home and be together forever.
“I want to thank them for their unbelievable compassion, their 24/7 care, their knowledge and coaching,” Kate said. “Everyone treated us with extraordinary kindness. We will never forget each nurse and doctor who touched our lives.”
When Kate’s employer, Kohl’s Corporate, heard her story, they felt immense gratitude for Holy Redeemer’s NICU and staff. Wanting to give back, Kohl’s offered to co-host a 6K walk/run. The event was held on Saturday, September 14th in honor of Kate, Avery, Alex and the angels of Holy Redeemer’s NICU and raised $14,000 for the NICU.