[Two mothers, Jennifer and Emily, sitting on a green sofa. Both delivered babies that were cared for in West Penn Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Emily's twin boys are now 2, while Jennifer had her daughter in 2017.]
JENNIFER: They wheeled me in on, you know, the great big bed, into the NICU. That was probably the most terrifying moment of my life.
EMILY: I remember apologizing to people when they came to visit like, 'Sorry, I don't have a baby to show you.'
EMILY: I had two and I don’t even have one to show you.
JENNIFER: You know, they told us [that] the next 72 hours is critical. I didn't want to call anybody [and] celebrate. I really just wanted to go sit in my room and just cry. …The next thing I knew, 72 hours was over. And so, she was slowly but surely starting to kind of, you know, go uphill. And you're like, 'OK. We can do this.'
EMILY: My boys were delivered at 32 [weeks], five days.
JENNIFER: I delivered on 32 weeks, exactly.
EMILY: From now on, we’re moms. Forever. I don’t care, when my kids are 50, I’m going to be their mom. …But then we also carry that NICU mom [title]. It's a different club.
JENNIFER: Yeah, absolutely.
EMILY: It's amazing to think a year-and-a-half ago, we were where you are.
JENNIFER: How do you feel now, knowing that it's in the past?
EMILY: It's overwhelming to think about everything that we survived. In the beginning, everything is scary. And now, at a year-and-a-half, we just do things that normal families do. …I was so thankful that I was at West Penn. And I say that with so much sincerity.
JENNIFER: Since I’m kind of in NICU right now, and it feels like it's never-ending, it's awesome to hear everything that you've been through, and how similar our experiences have been …I think having a baby in the NICU gives you a new appreciation for the title of ‘mom,’ right? Cause you're not just mom to me, if you're a NICU mom, you're a super-mom.
NARRATOR: The region's fastest-growing labor and delivery program is at Allegheny Health Network.
WE ARE PROUD TO SHARE THESE 2017 STORIES:
Nothing about Emily Joyce's first pregnancy went according to script. What she'd assumed was one child instead turned out to be twins. And, as is often the case with twins, Xavier and Bruce made an earlier-than-expected appearance about eight weeks too early, each weighing less than five pounds.
So it was time for a new script: Allow Allegheny Health Network's outstanding Women’s Health specialists to "do what they do best," Emily said, recalling the delivery. "We're going to turn it over to the doctors. We're in a great hospital. We don't have to worry."
That hospital was West Penn. Starting February 5, 2016, and for the next month, Emily, Xavier, and Bruce were cared for by a team of physicians, nurses, and other clinicians, first in the operating room (where the delivery took place), then soon after in West Penn's Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. After 20 days in the NICU, the babies were moved to the hospital's pediatric unit.
While the infants were in good health for their gestational development, "they weren't able to breathe on their own," Emily said. "They couldn’t breathe, suck, and swallow at the same time. They couldn't regulate their own body temperature. They just needed time to grow a little bit."
West Penn provided that, and more. "It was my first pregnancy, so I didn’t know what to expect. But everything turned out so nicely," Emily said.
The labor and delivery units across Allegheny Health Network at West Penn, Saint Vincent, Forbes, and Jefferson hospitals played a part in a record number of births in 2017, nearly 7,500 throughout the system. Nearly 1,500 of them were cared for in one of AHN's NICUs or specialty nurseries.
Women's care, of course, is about much more than obstetrical medicine. That's why AHN is committed to providing world-class, personalized, holistic care to the women of western Pennsylvania, combining "high-tech" clinical capabilities with "high-touch" customer service and creating resources that support women on their physical, emotional, and spiritual journeys. From specialized cardiovascular treatments to leading-edge breast cancer diagnostics, from menopause and osteoporosis therapies to innovative lymphedema and gynecologic cancer trials, AHN offers dynamic clinical programs that empower women with the resources and relationships they need to care for themselves and their families.
In 2017, AHN opened its new Perinatal Hope Program for mothers and pregnant women struggling with addiction. AHN also began development of the new Alexis Joy D’Achille Center for Women's Behavioral Health, which will be one of the nation's most innovative, comprehensive care centers for women suffering from pregnancy-related depression when it opens in 2018. In Erie, construction has also begun on the new Saint Vincent Hospital Women and Infants Center.
And AHN continues to add physicians, surgeons and behavioral health specialists specializing in women's care. With more than 50 women’s health care and 120 primary care practice locations, AHN is dedicated to ensuring that women will have access to high-quality, high-value primary and specialty care, no matter where they live or work.
As for Xavier and Bruce, they are happy and perfectly healthy 2-year-olds, thanks in large part to the care they received at AHN during their first few weeks.
"We were all treated so well," Emily said. "We have a special place for the West Penn NICU in our hearts. That will forever be a part of us."