Preemie Overcomes Feeding Challenges in JFK’s NICU – Well being Subjects, JFK Medical Heart, Areas, Parenting, Pediatrics, Being pregnant
July 16, 2021
Six weeks before her first baby was born, Julie-Anne Butare’s prolonged, painful labor was referred to as “bad luck” because her body showed no other signs of imminent birth. But all bets were gone just days later. In June 2020 JulieAnnes broke water while the occupational therapist was at Medical center of the JFK University was on duty to help a patient into his wheelchair.
With JFKs Maternity ward Just a few steps away, JulieAnne immediately reported the dramatic developments to the labor and delivery nurses. An investigation confirmed JulieAnne was in preterm labor, and the situation quickly escalated when fetal monitoring revealed that baby Emma may be in distress and her heart rate fluctuated from high to low.
“I was wearing full PPE – N95 mask, surgical mask, gown, work – and cried a lot behind my mask because of the full-blown contractions while working with patients,” recalls JulieAnne, 30 definitely in labor, it was a whirlwind . ”
Doctors decided that Julieanne would need an emergency C-section to deliver Emma, who would then be taken to JFK’s neonatal intensive care unit. But first, JulieAnne’s wife, Annmarie, was called to the hospital from the couple’s home in Lebanon, New Jersey, an hour away. She arrived just in time to walk into the operating room with her spouse and greet their new daughter together.
Annmarie, a 2021 medical school graduate who was about to begin her surgical residency, was nervous about Emma’s premature birth. Doctors told her that if her lungs weren’t working properly, the baby might not cry right away.
“The umbilical cord was wrapped around Emma’s neck, but as soon as she came out she was screaming, so her lungs were clearly perfect,” says Annmarie, who has been with JulieAnne since she was a college student a decade ago. “We both let out a big sigh of relief.”
A destination to feed and grow
Despite her loud screaming, Emma – weighing just under 5 pounds – faced another challenge common in late premature babies born between 34 and 37 weeks of gestation.
Emma couldn’t suckle properly and quickly ran out of stamina to breastfeed or bottle feed long enough to take in sufficient nutrients. She also had trouble maintaining her body temperature and spent time in a heated isolette.
“Many premature babies are born with a need for oxygen, but Emma was lucky and spared it,” says the JFK neonatologist Jocelyn Austria, MD “But you can have a baby bigger than Emma who can’t feed.”
Adds Brittany Reid, MD, Director of Neonatology at JFK: “If you are born prematurely, you do not have this coordination of sucking, swallowing and breathing. You are challenged to do this sooner than you otherwise would have to. It’s a matter of perseverance, and feeding is like moving a baby. “
On Emma’s third day of life, her mothers agreed to the doctors’ plans to insert a feeding tube through the baby’s nose to deliver nutrients to the stomach. The parents absolutely wanted to breastfeed and worked with their doctors to develop a plan that met all needs: After a short period of breastfeeding, Emma received additional breast milk through her feeding tube, which JulieAnne had previously pumped out.
“Emma was really what we call a feeder and grower,” says Dr. Reid. “Her main role in the neonatal intensive care unit was to really learn how to eat, grow to a reasonable size, and show us that she can do all of her normal functions.”
Keep families together
When Emma was in intensive care for eight hours each day after Julie Anne was released, the mothers were overjoyed to be doing much of their hands-on care as Emma quickly gained strength. The baby also underwent phototherapy under special lights for a day when he developed jaundice.
“The nurses became our best friends,” recalls Annmarie. “It was hard to go to the hospital every day and not bring Emma home every night, but we felt so much better in every aspect.”
With its ability to care for premature babies from the 32nd week of pregnancy, JFK’s NICU provides security and comfort for parents who give birth to premature babies or frail children, says Dr. Reid.
“In hospitals without a NICU, these babies have to be relocated and families have to be separated from their babies,” she explains. “At JFK, we can keep parents and babies together for long periods of time while a mother is still recovering from birth.”
Emma is now 10 months old and has a busy, sturdy weight of 19 pounds with no ongoing health problems. “She is super loud, likes to chat and is always on the move,” says JulieAnne.
The family of three is excited to move to North Carolina for Annmarie’s surgical residency and carries strong memories of Emma’s first few weeks in JFK’s patient-centered environment.
“Aside from practicing great medicine, they were the kindest people,” says Annmarie. “They held Emma like she was their own.”
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