A Tiny Miracle: Mom and Preemie Thrive

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Adalyn Marie Shockley came into this world weighing 1 pound, 6.9 ounces and measuring 12.6 inches long. She took her first breath at 6:14pm on April 27, 2015, following an emergency C-section at Anne Arundel Medical Center. Immediately after delivery, she was transferred to AAMC’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit–Teddy’s Place.

Photographer Leah Adkins captured special moments from the Shockleys’ early days in the NICU and wrote about her experience taking the photos on her blog.

Photographer Leah Adkins captured special moments from the Shockleys’ early days in the NICU and wrote about her experience taking the photos on her blog.

Addy, as her parents Meisha and Adrian Shockley call their itty-bitty miracle, was born at 27 weeks gestation. “Her skin was translucent—too sensitive to even touch,” Meisha recalls.

An Unexpected Journey

Today, Adalyn is home, although she continues to routinely see a series of pediatric specialists on the AAMC campus—including her cardiologist, pulmonologist, endocrinologist, and infants and toddlers therapist—to ensure continued healthy development. “Even though it’s a two-hour drive from my front door in Salisbury to AAMC in Annapolis, I am adamant that Adalyn stay with the same doctors who saved her life,” Meisha says.

In fact, because of the 88-mile distance and Meisha’s history of a healthy, full-term pregnancy with her first daughter, the Shockleys never intended to deliver at AAMC. But as Meisha’s second pregnancy approached its third trimester, she developed a migraine that wouldn’t budge. She was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure, which increases risk of maternal stroke and restricts blood flow to the placenta.

Meisha’s preeclampsia was acute and required immediate 24/7 bed rest in a hospital with a Level III NICU, since the chances for a premature delivery were high and the baby would need skilled neonatal care. “No hospital close to home could provide the care we needed to protect our baby’s life,” Meisha says. “That’s when we decided to take our unexpected journey to AAMC.”

Care Extraordinaire

Meisha was admitted to AAMC at 25 weeks gestation to control her blood pressure and keep Adalyn inside her body for as long as possible. “The nurses went above and beyond their job description to help calm my fears,” Meisha says, which included celebrating every extra day that Adalyn stayed put.

“I don’t know how I would have made it without the doctors’ and nurses’ constant reassurance,” Meisha says. “But at the same time, they never sugarcoated anything. Every question was answered as if it were the most important question in the world.”

After three weeks at AAMC, it was time to deliver. The day before Meisha’s scheduled C-section, she received a full rundown of what to expect and spent time with the NICU staff. “They explained that my baby would be on a ventilator, and she wouldn’t look like my four-year-old daughter when she was born. Still though, the discussion was so personable and compassionate, I went into surgery feeling confident,” Meisha recalls.

It took one full week before Addy could be held, which Meisha describes as “the longest week of my life.” When Addy was ready to leave her incubator for short periods of time, staff taught Meisha and Adrian kangaroo care, where parents hold their baby against their bare chests. As each day passed—and Addy grew stronger—Meisha and Adrian became more involved in their daughter’s care.

“I feel the most important thing we can do is engage parents as soon as possible and help them feel comfortable taking care of their own child,” explains Suzanne Rindfleisch, DO, medical director of AAMC’s NICU–Teddy’s Place. “I’m very proud of our medical management and outstanding results, but our role is only the beginning of a baby’s story. So many studies tell us that the biggest indicator of a good outcome for a baby is going home to a family that’s prepared to engage with their baby and not treat this person as some fragile being.”

Homeward Bound

Three months after Adalyn’s birth, it was time to head home. The Shockleys left the hospital with more than a thriving baby daughter. They also brought home a positive and confident attitude, instilled in them by the staff. “Every moment at AAMC was filled with another celebration,” Meisha says. “Taking Addy off the ventilator and out of the incubator, getting her dressed, feeding her…those were milestones that we celebrated. Now that we’re home, we’re still celebrating. When we see our daughter making strides—one gram at a time—we’re so excited.”

Contributor
Dr. Reindfliesch_optSuzanne Rindfleisch, DO, is medical director of AAMC’s NICU-Teddy’s Place.

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