Life in the NICU: The joys and struggles

Life in the NICU

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS 11)--When Leigha Evans can't hold her son, she's holding his hand.

"He loves getting his head rubbed," Evans said.

He may only weigh 2 pounds now, but Killian Michael Evans is a fighter. Born at 30 weeks, not even a pound, his mother was told to prepare for the worst, a stillbirth, but Killian had other plans. 

"It's life-changing. I know that's cliche that a baby changes you, but he really has," Evans said.

The two have spent every day inside the NICU at Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville. It's a reality for dozens of parents, many of whom are forced to divide their time between here and home.

"They have this baby in the NICU who's super sick, a family at home and job responsibilities. It's tough for them to be here all the time," Dr. Angela Cox, a NICU physician at Norton Children's Hospital said.

Dr. Cox has been at Killian's side since the day he was born.

"We tell the parents it's a roller coaster ride. Some days they're doing great and we celebrate those achievements. Some days they're having a rough day. It's a rough day for the parents, the baby and for us too because we want them to do well," Cox said.

On any given day, this NICU cares for about 90 babies. Norton Women's and Children's Hospital in St. Matthews care for another 30 to 40 babies each day.

"Downtown, we get a little bit of everything," Dr. Cox said. "We have babies that are 24 weeks old and above generally."

"A lot of times, we get to celebrate with them which is fun. Sometimes we have to grieve with them. It's nice to be there for them and help them get through their NICU stay," Lindsay Sauer, a NICU nurse said.

Sauer can relate to parents on this floor. She delivered her quadruplets here four years ago, three boys and a girl.

Today, her kids are happy and healthy, giving proof there is hope for babies like Killian. 

"I'm hoping we can go home by Christmas, that would be the best gift," Evans said.

Killian's one of the lucky ones. Globally, 15 million babies are born prematurely every year, according to the March of Dimes. A million of them don't survive. In the United States, about 380,000 babies are born prematurely each year. The preterm birth rate (the percent of babies born before 37 weeks each year) is 9.8 percent in the United States. 

Mothers can help make sure their babies are born healthy by avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. Go to a prenatal care checkup as soon as they find out their pregnant. Reduce stress and wait at least 18-months between giving birth and getting pregnant again.

Find out how your state ranks for premature births here

Preterm labor and premature birth: Are you at risk? Click here 

The newborn intensive care unit (NICU) Click here
 

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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