World Prematurity Day: A 108-Day NICU Journey
November is Prematurity Awareness Month and November 17th is World Prematurity Day. According to The World Health Organization, every year an estimated 15 million babies are born prematurely. This is nearly 1 out of every 10 babies. The March of Dimes reports that premature birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5 worldwide.
In March 2014, my twin daughters were born 14 weeks prematurely. Their 108-day NICU stay was a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. I took over 15,000 photos to document their NICU journey, but the abridged version of their NICU story can be told with only 5 photos.
24th Day of Life: The Ring Photos
In these photos, my daughters look like relatively normal sized new-born babies. However, at birth they weighed 1 lb. 12 oz. and 1 lb. 13 oz., and they measured just over 13 inches in length. Their heads were about the size of lemons and their arms were as thick as Sharpie® permanent markers. My photos fail to depict their tiny size accurately. To give friends and family some perspective, I took a picture of each of my daughters wearing my wedding band as a bracelet. These two photos of my daughters were taken at 24 days of life, and my wedding band still easily slid up to their elbows.
28th Day of Life: The Infection Photo
The obstacles a premature baby will face are countless: anemia, apnea, bradycardia, blood transfusions, MRSA infections, brain bleeds, feeding difficulties, pulmonary hypertension, etc. At 4 weeks old, my older daughter (by 50 seconds) developed a life-threatening infection and needed a double blood transfusion. Prior to her transfusion, she had an IV line in her forehead and a gauze bandage on her left foot, in addition to her ET Tube, feeding tube, EKG Leads, and Pulse ox. The sad look on her face conveyed her discomfort. The below photo serves as a reminder of the obstacles my daughters overcame during their NICU journey.
83rd Day of Life: The Reunion Photo
After 26 weeks of bonding together in utero, my daughters were separated at birth. They spent 12 weeks apart in separate NICU pods. Below is a photo of their first reunion after birth.
108th Day of Life: The End of the NICU Journey Photo
108 Days after their NICU journey began, I finally saw my daughters without any wires or tubes – I guess this is how they would have looked had they been born as full-term babies. It was a long NICU journey, and they had to overcome more medical obstacles in 108 days than many people will face in a lifetime.
3 Years of Life: Photo Update
Today, my daughters are happy, healthy 3-year-olds. As difficult as their NICU journey was, my wife and I are incredibly grateful that such excellent care was available. For anyone currently dealing with this difficult situation, I hope my daughters’ story will give you hope.