Premature in a Pandemic: Part two

MARYLAND – NICU Awareness Month, which happens every September, is coming to an end. But to honor the month, 47 ABC took a deeper look at the doctors who work inside of NICUs, and the families that survive them.

Racheal Collins gave birth to her son, Everett, on July 5th at full term. What was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life, turned into one of the scariest. Because of a hole in his lung, Everett was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit just seconds after he was born.

“His chest was filling up with air, and then they drained it with a tube, and it came back, so that’s when they put him on the ventilator,” Racheal explained.

That started a nearly month-long NICU stay for the Collins family, with time spent both at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional in Salisbury and at Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C. Racheal and her husband, Kevin, say the stress of having a newborn in the NICU and living through that during a pandemic was overwhelming.

“At work, you know you get stressed out at work, you have stress sometimes at home, nothing really crazy, I’m 32-years-old, this is my first kid, I really thought that I’ve had a lot of stress, I never have been stressed like I was then,” Kevin said.

For them, they say some medical decisions had to be discussed over the phone when they couldn’t be face to face with baby Everett.

“The first night that we went up there, we stayed in a room, and it was like 2:00 in the morning and the doctor called me and was like, ‘we’re going to have to put a second chest tube in, do you authorize?'” Racheal said.

Samantha Marshall can relate to the stress of having a newborn baby in the NICU during a pandemic. She gave birth to a premature baby, Callie, last summer in Salisbury. With Callie weighing only one pound 12.9 ounces, their stay in the NICU stretched into six weeks. That’s over a month of Samantha and her husband navigating Covid-19 restrictions just to see their own baby.

“I had to wear a mask, and I basically scrubbed in and out every single chance I got,” Samantha said.

Samantha says the stress was impacted even more by the fact that, besides her husband there with her, she was alone. That meant no visits from grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, or anyone.

“If it wasn’t for Covid, it would’ve been a lot easier because I would have at least had people with me, but at the time it was just kind of very unsure, uncertain,” Samantha said.

For both new moms, being physically separated from their family was one thing, but being separated from their newborn was a whole new emotional setback, something both of them say you would never understand unless you lived it.

“I couldn’t really touch her… I mean I could touch her, but I couldn’t do what they call kangaroo care, until about two weeks after she was born,” Samantha said.

“When he was first born at TidalHealth, they took me to the NICU with them to see him after I left the recovery room from the C-section, and I held him for maybe 20 seconds, and then I had to throw up,” Racheal added.

Today, Everett is nearly three months old and Callie turned a year old in June. With both babies now healthy and thriving, their parents say these are the days they dreamed of while they were masking up to see their babies alone in a NICU.

“In total, I was in the NICU life for 58 days, and we actually got off easy, because she came home on August 22… she was due September 17,” Samantha said.

“When you don’t think you’re going to take him home, and then you actually get to take him, it’s like, gosh it’s really happening,” Racheal added.

While the days spent in the NICU were stressful and scary, both moms agree that had it not been for the teams working inside of the NICUs, their lives, and the lives of their newborns, could be a lot different.

“With something like that, you want somebody you can trust, because if you have someone that you don’t trust, then you worry about what’s going to happen,” Racheal said.

If you missed part one of this series, you can find it here.

Categories: Local News, Maryland