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Children's Care Fund Testimonial

Ellie Ann Madison 1

EllieAnn and Madison's Parents

Nothing can prepare you for motherhood. One thing that is certain about Allison and myself is we like to be prepared. We’re the type of people that make plans to make plans.

A little back story about us, we’ve been together since 2011. We got married in July 2019 and decided we wanted to expand our family right away in January of 2020. We obviously knew we would never be able to have that happen the old fashion way. Through six cycles of IUIs and a round of IVF we finally had success in October 2022! What some people don’t know is that IVF increases your chances of having multiples and it already runs in my family. We were prepared to have multiples and that’s exactly what happened. We have two beautiful little girls.

Early on in the pregnancy around 20 weeks we were headed in for a typical checkup consisting of an ultrasound and blood work to make sure everything is on track when something didn’t seem the “normal”. We found out that I had developed a condition called Vasa Previa. For those of you that don’t know what that is, like myself at the time. It is a condition where one of the umbilical cords don’t connect directly to the placenta but connects to the placenta through a network of blood vessels which just happens to lay over the cervix of where the girls would need to be delivered from. Again, we were prepared. We informed ourselves of the condition, increased our monitoring with the doctors and planned to have a c-section a little early to prevent going into labor. We talked and asked questions to doctors and even reached out to have a visit with the NICU at Hamot with having a very good chance of our girls needing to spend some time there.

As soon as we took the tour at the UPMC Hamot NICU, we knew this was the right place for us. We met with Tina the staff members of the NICU and she was so helpful with explaining what to expect and sitting us down with one of the doctors so we could ask questions. This was still during Covid so the fact they would even take the time and show us around is huge. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

At 30 weeks in we went to one of our weekly appointments for our ultrasound where we were informed that I had cholestasis and the start of pre-eclampsia both of which increase the chance of premature labor which we couldn’t have. This is where things did not go to plan. We were told I would be going into hospitalization bedrest for two weeks until they felt it was the safest time to have the birth of our girls without putting myself at too much risk.

Bed rest was torture for both of us. I am one of those people that need to keep busy and laying there usually by myself day in and day out as Allison was still working was boring. We are first time parents, so we read books like what to expect when you’re expecting and had the baby apps on the phone to prepare ourselves. So, every cramp or every ache worried us that something was wrong. Allison was afraid to leave thinking as soon as she would go home, I was going to need her. Luckily the doctors and staff were constantly checking in and reassuring us everything was fine. One nurse specifically stood out; her name was Marybeth. She would take the time to sit down and spend some time with me during the day. She worked both in the maternity area and in the NICU. She would give advice and gave information packets to me to read helping me to prepare on what’s to come. She also praised us on how prepared we were coming into this as most moms will admit they never feel like they are getting things right.

On October 7, 2022, was our magical day that seemed like it would never come but also seemed to happen so quickly. EllieAnn which we knew as baby A came out at 4 lbs and 9 oz and Madison our baby B was 4 lbs 6 oz. It’s not like how you would picture it with the do you want to cut the cord or them cleaning up the baby wrapping her in a blanket for you to hold. Instead, it was a glance as they held them up and just as quick took them away to make sure they are placed in the proper care/environment so they can continue to grow into healthy babies.

I was moved into recovery while the girls were sent to the NICU. About 3 hours later they were able to push my bed down to the NICU where we were finally able to put our hands on them through the hole in the incubators. Both girls had ng/feeding tubes, iv’s, cannula, pulse monitor and heart monitors so you had to be very careful where you were touching. We still couldn’t hold our girls. For three days we stayed on a floor above them able to come down and visit periodically as I needed to rest and take care of myself from the c-section. Fear sat in as the days winding down to discharge were approaching. Allison was going to have to go back to work, I was not allowed to drive nor was an hour drive to and from the hospital ideal when healing from a surgery. So how were we going to see our girls. Do we rent out a hotel room and pay for a taxi to get to the hospital? How long would they be in the NICU and how would we be able to afford that expense? The day finally came, and we had to go home. All the way home we were both in tears we didn’t want to leave the girls. Allison had to go back to work, and I found a ride to the hospital the next day but would have to leave at 8 am and stay at the NICU until my ride came back at 9:30 PM. Nurse Practitioner, Sherri, kept checking in on me and making sure I was taking care of myself as well. Feeling so hopeless in the situation we were approached by a couple nurses about Grady’s decision offering us one of the two apartments they own to stay in as long as we needed. With so much going on to worry about this gave us a little peace of mind. They also supplied us with parking passes to save in money and even a few gift cards to get some food on days we just didn’t want to cook.

The apartments were not only conveniently close to the hospital but were way more than we ever expected. We were expecting a typical hotel room with four walls, a bed, tv and a bathroom maybe even a little run down or outdated. This place was immaculate! It had a washer and dryer so you always had clean clothes, a kitchen so you could have some home cooked meals and not constantly eating out. The place was up to date decor and Spick n span clean. It was comfortable and safe. It was nice for Allison knowing I was able to see our girls when I wanted to and I was safe. It was also nice for Allison to be able to stay over when she had a day off so she could spend more time in the NICU with the girls.

Because of these apartments we were able to make it to rounds every morning to get an update on how our girls were doing and get informed on any changes they were going to make for the day. This was our favorite part as we looked forward to even the smallest progress whether it was going up one mL on feeds or lowering their incubators by .01 degrees.

Our girls were in the NICU for 41 days! And they were only able to come home if we agreed to them being on monitors or else it could have been much longer. And they worked hard to get those monitors for us so we could bring them home, it was no easy feat due to insurances. Days blurred together, some days were harder than others when the girls had a setback or didn’t make progress that day or if Allison wasn’t able to come up to see them in a couple days. The staff at UPMC Hamot not only took amazing care of our babies but also us especially myself. The amount of support we received physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally is beyond measure and no words or actions will ever be able to begin to show our appreciation and gratitude for all they did. No amount of planning and researching will ever prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster of being a NICU parent and we would have never got through it without the amazing staff here in the NICU and Grady’s Decisions. We appreciate everything that Jeanne has done for us and she was our rock through this journey!

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