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Premature Penelope with parents, Reggie and Nick

Reggie, a psychiatric nurse at Hillside Hospital (located behind Royal Inland Hospital) and Nick, a design director with a computer software company in town, were thrilled to bring their new baby home on October 22 of this year. But the homecoming was much earlier than planned; Reggie’s actual due date was in November, but Penelope entered the world on September 27, seven weeks early. What started out as a normal pregnancy advanced into complications at 30 weeks when Reggie, who had been experiencing headaches for six days, decided to see her prenatal doctor, Tiffany Hornbeck. It was discovered that she had developed gestational diabetes, preclampsia (marked by high blood pressure) and HELLP syndrome.

HELLP, which stands for H-hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells), EL- elevated liver enzymes and LP-low platelet count, is a rare and serious condition. Symptoms include: fatigue, blurred vision, weight gain, swelling, headache, nausea/vomiting, nosebleeds and pain in the upper right quadrant of the belly. The result can be major health issues including seizures, strokes, liver rupture and/or placental abruption.

As a result of the diagnosis, Reggie was monitored very closely and visited RIH every few days for blood work to track how she was doing and for ultrasounds to see how Penelope was developing. On one of her visits, friends who happen to be nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), gave her a tour, “This early tour of the NICU was so important to me because when Penelope was brought here after delivery, I was already familiar with the set-up and felt comfortable in the Unit,” Reggie explained. On September 24, Reggie was admitted to RIH, and Dr. Hilary Baikie put her on strict bed rest. Reggie was also given steroids to try and keep her pregnancy going for at least one more week so that Penelope’s lungs would have more time to develop. However, just 3 days later, after looking at Reggie’s blood work and noticing the concerning increase in liver enzymes (which could lead to liver failure), the decision was made to deliver the baby immediately and Dr. Mark Treissman performed the surgery.

At 8:09 am on Friday, September 27, 3 lb 6 oz Penelope was born premature, but relatively healthy. She was brought to the NICU and spent 25 days receiving top-notch care. Reggie, who was discharged from RIH a few days after the birth and after recovering from her pregnancy-related health issues, visited Penelope every day and sometimes spent up to 16 hours with her first-born. Fortunately, baby Penelope was stable and required no additional help in order to breathe; she did have a couple of episodes of apnea (cessation of breathing), but was otherwise developing well. In fact, she did so well that less than a month later, at 4 lbs 7 oz, she was able to go home.

Both Reggie and Nick admitted that while the experience was scary at times, the nurses and entire medical team made it much easier as they were very knowledgeable and caring. Their nurses were open to questions, took time to explain everything, and even prepared the new parents for potential scenarios, assuring them that they did not need to worry. “The entire experience was so positive. The nurses were amazing and made us feel comfortable, while helping us navigate being new parents. I’m grateful that our Penelope got to spend so much time with the smart, strong, empowering women who are the nurses of the NICU. There are no words to thank them enough for the care they provided,” Reggie commented.

Nick agreed and explained, “Having a preemie isn’t something that you prepare for, and the amount that you worry about, even the smallest thing, can become overwhelming. But the nurses in the NICU were outstanding; walking us through everything before anything worrisome came up. And while it was hard to leave Penelope at the end of the day for the night, we had peace of mind knowing that she was in the very best of care.”

If you are a patient or family member and would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you! You can either fill in the form or contact our office at 250-314-2325.