An active, healthy 30-year-old woman, Heidi says her first pregnancy was progressing normally until she hit the 26-week mark. She started to experience a few unusual symptoms, including mild cramping, and went to see her obstetrician, Kavitha Raj, MD. An ultrasound showed Heidi was going into premature labor. She was quickly admitted to El Camino Hospital in Mountain View and put on bedrest. Heidi received injections to prepare her baby’s brain and lungs for birth, and on April 2, five days after she was admitted, Cody arrived. He was 13 weeks premature, but he was pink and crying.
“His cry was the best sound in the world,” Heidi says. “The delivery was smooth. Cody’s vitals were stable and he was never in any distress. My husband, Daniel, cut the umbilical cord, they put Cody on my chest and we shared a brief, but magical moment that is forever etched in my mind.”
At just two pounds, Cody was considered a micro-preemie and quickly taken to the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where he remained for the next 85 days. Micro-preemies typically stay in the NICU until their original expected due date, which was the fourth of July for Cody. Heidi and Daniel were able to bring him home on June 25, a week and a half earlier than expected.
There were some ups and downs during the 85 days Cody spent in the NICU and Heidi says the nurses prepared her in advance for everything that transpired. Cody had two minor infections requiring three weeks of antibiotics and spent 23 days on a ventilator followed by 42 days on a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. He had two spinal taps, received seven transfusions, had a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line placed twice and required countless feedings through an IV or gastric tube.
Through it all, Heidi says she bonded with the nurses and doctors and the NICU became a home away from home for her family. “I could see how much the staff truly cared for Cody. They listened to our thoughts and opinions and encouraged me and my husband to care for Cody just like any other parent would care for their baby. We changed diapers, gave him baths, fed him, read to him and held him,” she says.
According to Heidi, “There were some very scary moments and Cody was connected to a lot of machines in the hospital, but the nurses reassured us every day that he was getting stronger. When it came time to take him home, we were very nervous to leave without the monitors to show us what was happening with his body. The nurses told us they wouldn’t let him leave if he wasn’t ready. We had the doctor’s phone number and were told to call the doctor or the NICU any time we felt unsure…and we did! We had a lot of wonderful support from the hospital and in a short time, we became more confident.”
At 20 months old, Cody is a healthy, cheerful ball of energy. He receives occupational and physical therapy a few times a month and is doing very well developmentally. “Cody loves to eat, play with anything with wheels, read books, climb on furniture and go outside. Above all, he loves to explore. He has a wonderful temperament and is growing so fast,” explains Heidi.
Heidi has been a school nurse in the San Jose Unified School District for three years. She says, “Even though I am a nurse, I never fully understood what happened in a NICU and was very pleasantly surprised. The staff made it feel homelike and welcoming and encouraged family bonding from the beginning. We felt like people really cared about our baby. The nurses made a customized name card for Cody and they do this for every baby. Every baby gets their own blanket and crocheted hat. They have the most perfect recliners for holding your baby and provide books to read. We got to know many of the nurses and staff and it was great to walk in and see other nurses loving Cody when I wasn’t there.”
Heidi, Daniel and Cody returned to El Camino Hospital for the annual NICU reunion. “We were so excited to see everyone again and to show off Cody. We wanted to see how all the other little babies were doing and got to see every single doctor who cared for Cody and all the nurses. It was a very special day for us,” says Heidi.