South Shore Hospital NICU Team Helps Preemie Thrive
Weymouth resident Amy Lekakos was expecting her third child in early 2014, but throughout the first half of her pregnancy, something just didn’t feel right.
“I kept sensing that there was something wrong,” recalled Amy, whose previous pregnancies were uneventful and resulted in healthy baby boys. After a fainting episode and being hospitalized twice at South Shore Hospital for a possible placenta tear, Amy’s fears were realized when her water broke at just 23 weeks.
Throughout each hospitalization, Amy’s saving grace was the South Shore Hospital’s maternity team. “The nurses were an enormous comfort to me,” said Amy. “When my night nurse finished her shift, she told me she didn’t want to leave me, because she knew how upset I was.”
At 24 weeks and one day, Amy went into labor. “Everything started happening so quickly, the team was starting to come in, and I was just sobbing because I knew it was too soon. One of the nurse-midwives saw how upset I was and just stopped everything and helped calm me down while I waited for my husband to arrive.”
Amy’s daughter Emily was born weighing just 1 lb., 3oz. She was so small that Amy’s contractions didn’t even register on the monitor during labor. Emily was born with a membrane covering her head and face, a rare, but lucky occurrence, since the medical team believes it helped protect her delicate brain during the delivery. Before Emily was taken to the Messina Family Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the nursing team made sure that Amy has a chance to see her first, “because they knew how important that was for me,” said Amy.
Riding the NICU Roller Coaster
Once well enough to leave her own hospital room, Amy joined her husband in the NICU where neonatologist Zuzanna Kubicka, MD began to explain the long road ahead, and assured them that they weren’t in this fight alone.
“She told us from the beginning that life in the NICU is a roller coaster, and that Emily will have good days and bad days, but that they would be here to help get us through it.”
Throughout the next four and a half months, Emily battled through a number of complications from her premature birth, including infection, digestion issues that required a feeding tube, damage to her retina and diabetes insipidus, which is a chronic condition that makes it difficult for the body to regulate fluids.
Every step of the way, the NICU team prepared Amy and her husband for what to expect. “Each week they would sit with us and review the potential complications that could arise and how they would address them,” remembered Amy. “They respected me as a mother and listened to every concern that I had, going into detail on every aspect of Emily’s care so that I knew what was happening.”
With two little boys at home, Amy couldn’t be by Emily’s side in the NICU 24/7, but she relied on her dedicated nursing team for updates. “I would call at all hours of the day and night for updates, and I could always count on one of the nurses to reassure me that Emily was doing okay.”
The South Shore Hospital Difference
Due to her diabetes insipidus, Emily made two trips to Boston to see specialists during her stay in the NICU, and each visit made her appreciate even more the experience they had at South Shore Hospital.
“The quality of care Emily received in Boston was good, but the environment wasn’t as personable, and I didn’t feel like I had as much of a voice as I did at South Shore Hospital,” said Amy.
“As soon as we were able, I pushed to have Emily transferred back to Weymouth because that was what was best for her and for me.”
Back in the NICU at South Shore Hospital, the nursing team rallied around the Lekakos family to help keep their spirits up. “They celebrated even the smallest of milestones, like gaining weight, and dressed up each of the babies for different holidays and sent us photos.”
As Emily continued to make progress, she started to develop her personality, which didn’t go unnoticed by nurses. According to Amy, “Emily was a little bit stubborn, and all the nurses knew that. They never pushed her; they understood that she needed to do things on her own time.”
After 141 days in the NICU, Emily was ready to come home. Although nervous about taking care of Emily on their own, Amy and her husband felt well prepared thanks to the team at South Shore Hospital.
“Emily still had her feeding tube in when she was discharged, which was a little scary, but they went through every step of her daily care and routine until we felt that we were ready to handle things on our own. They even gave us a music box to put in her crib just like the one she had in the NICU to help her feel comfortable at home.”
A Flourishing Four Year Old
Today, Emily is a happy and active four-year-old, who is now in her third year of pre-school. She receives early intervention help at school for speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy, but, true to her personality, when Emily is ready to hit her milestones, she does. “She has such a fighting spirit, and she gets there on her own time,” says Amy. “It may take some extra time, but she always gets there.”
Although Emily was recently diagnosed with a mild cerebral palsy that causes weakness on her left side, Amy knows that the condition won’t stop her bright and bubbly daughter from thriving.
“When I think of where she began and look at her now…she is absolutely amazing."
"Emily has a personality and heart that is a million times bigger than she is, and we feel so fortunate. The South Shore Hospital NICU team will always have a special place in my heart for helping us get where we are today.”
To learn more about The Messina Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at South Shore Hospital, please visit our website.
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