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110 Days in the NICU

baby boy smiling

Samantha and her husband, Steve, knew they wanted to add to their family of three. Their teenaged son, Aiden, had always wanted to be a big brother so the whole family was thrilled when Samantha became pregnant in 2021.

Because it wasn’t her first pregnancy, Samantha knew not to panic when she first started spotting, soon after she had told her family she was pregnant. After getting checked out by her doctor, they assured her that everything was fine. Her pregnancy progressed and she and her family were all excited about their new addition. Another bleeding experience sent her to the hospital, but again, all tests were fine and she was sent home.

Then, on April 19 at only 22 weeks and 2 days pregnant her water broke. Samantha first called her husband, a long-haul truck driver, but he was in the US and couldn’t get to her in time. Her next call was to her in-laws, who picked her up from her small town of Stayner, Ontario (near Wasaga Beach) and drove her to Collingwood, to the closest large hospital. The doctors there told her that if she had the baby within 72 hours, it wouldn’t be viable. But, if she made it past 72 hours without giving birth, she’d be transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

Stunned and worried, Samantha and her baby a little boy managed not to go into labour in that 72-hour window, and she was transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital via ambulance. Her husband followed the ambulance to the city, but with visitor restrictions in place because of COVID-19, he was unable to stay with her all the time. Admitted to the hospital, Samantha was told she could walk if she wanted to, but, “I knew from my first that you walk if you want to have the baby, so I stayed in bed, other than to use the washroom or go get some water.” When her husband came to see her, he would take her for walks in the wheelchair.

Samantha and Steve knew they wanted this baby to get every fighting chance he had. This meant that they wanted to delay his arrival as long as possible. Samantha was discharged from the hospital but returned at 24 weeks and 4 days to get a steroid shot, and was then put on bed rest. She was healthy and the baby was doing well, but the constant concern over how early he would make his arrival was stressful for the entire family.

“I knew when I started going into labour that it was real. I was timing myself and my contractions were getting closer and closer. I walked up to the front desk at the hospital and they put me on monitors right away, and kept them on overnight. I had to call my husband and tell him to drive back from his trip. I knew that 28 weeks is considered ideal, and I was at 27 weeks and 4 days, so I knew I had made it close, but I also knew there was no delaying this any longer, our baby boy was going to be born,” recalls Samantha.

The constant monitoring let the medical team know everything about the baby and once his heart rate started to drop, Samantha was told there was no more waiting. “I had an emergency caesarean section. It’s nerve-wracking when they say, ‘you have a baby boy’, because really you just want to know, is he ok? We didn’t hear any crying, and the room just seemed so silent. It’s a challenging way to give birth.” Landen, Samantha and Steve’s son, was born at 1:08 am on May 26, weighing 1140 grams, or 2.51 lbs. “Because I had been losing amniotic fluid since my water broke at 22 weeks, Landen was down to just this tiny bubble of fluid by his mouth, which was why his heart rate was dropping and he was in distress,” Samantha recalls.

Little Landen was intubated immediately, and after a quick visit with his father, taken up to the NICU at Mount Sinai Hospital. Samantha developed an infection from her C-section, which prevented her from being able to hold Landen right away. “It was such a hard time. I was so anxious for my older son, Aiden. We’d never been apart so long, but because of COVID he wasn’t able to visit and stay for a bit at the Ronald McDonald house, which was where I was. It was a really tough few months.”

Finally given the all-clear after her caesarean section, Samantha went to meet Landen. “I bawled like a baby the first time I saw him. I wasn’t scared or sad or anything. It was more that for so long, no one had given me any hope. Everyone told me that I should prepare for the worst. And then, he’s alive, he’s here, and I get to hold him in my arms. I was just so completely overjoyed!” Samantha remembers.

Landen had an uphill battle in front of him. “His oxygen levels would drop, you would see him turn from pink to purple, those were the worst,” says Samantha. “He was on a series of breathing supports, sometimes he would regress. It was hard. We would see babies who had arrived after us, leave before us. We started to feel like these old-timers, and I would get so jealous of all these families who got to go home before we did.”

Landen’s time in the NICU reached a crisis one day when his oxygen levels dropped extremely low. “It was really scary. I was there alone, as I was most days, as my husband had to work and my older son was in school and staying with my parents. Thank goodness for Facetime and cell phones, they helped us all still feel connected. Landen was struggling so hard on this day, and even the nurses were alarmed. But, the good news was that after his levels dropped so low, they realized he needed a blood transfusion. Once he had that, everything started to get better,” Samantha says.

Landen and Samantha’s next hurdle was Landen coming down with CMV, or Cytomegalovirus. A fairly common virus, when premature babies get it they run a risk of developing congenital Cytomegalovirus which can lead to long-term health implications. “He’s still being watched for signs or symptoms, but so far we’re in the clear with that one,” Samantha said.

Today Landen is a happy and healthy toddler, “We call him our little wild man,” Samantha says. Samantha and her family are deeply indebted to the Mount Sinai Hospital NICU, where Landen stayed for 110 days, and its staff. She says despite the intensity and stress, she forged friendships she still maintains today with both the nurses and fellow NICU moms. “It was so hard being away from family and friends for so long, but the staff at Mount Sinai made me feel like I had a second family away from home. Our primary nurse made special signs for Landen every time he achieved a milestone. Everyone just went above and beyond what we could ever have hoped for. We’re so grateful to Mount Sinai for saving our son. The NICU will always be in our hearts.”


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