Another Medical Milestone…Nia’s Open Heart Surgery is Near…

Nia’s Open Heart Surgery is less than five days away… We are incredible grateful to be at this milestone especially with such a uncertain beginning. As we approach this big day pray for Nia’s healing, our strength and endurance through another part of this journey!

Next week Nia will have Open Heart Surgery. Her heart will stop and she will be on a bypass machine while her cardiothoracic (heart) surgeon prepares her broken heart! It’s really painful to think about what our baby will have to endure- she has to go through this journey so she can get better- #MyGod!

I can’t fathom what I will feel like on April 16, 2019 as Nia’s life will be placed in the hands of her medical with our God’s supervision. Spiritually we are at peace but naturally as parents I am overwhelmed with the thought of Nia’s chest being cut open and having to be “zipped” back together.

 

Stockpiling BreastMilk- Medical War is Happening

I am weaning exclusively pumping finally! I am down to 3 pumping sessions and plan by next week to be down to 2. Still I’ve been stockpiling liquid gold as if we are going to Medical War 😂😂😂 Antoine has been helping to make sure the milk goes from fridge to freezer! We pray my sacrifice to pump this long and provide treasure of goodness gold helps Nia’s healing! 🙏🏾🙏🏾

Surgery is Necessary

We know that this surgery is a part of Nia’s Journey, but I surely do wish it was a better way. We know that there is victory in the name of Jesus for Nia. We know she is covered by His blood!

Cardiac ICU Tour

We took a tour last week of the Cardiac ICU while Nia was duPont for her Carherization Lab. The tour provided detail information on what to expect when we see our sweet girl post op! Some of the information was rather shocking- paralytic medicine, ventilator, and a chest tub to drain fluid- just seemed to be too much, but necessary for healing…

Parents/Caregivers of Heart Warriors

To parents of Heart Warriors I commend you for your strength and endurance to help fight with your babies to bring them through to other side of life after heart surgery.

We are truly looking forward to getting out of the germ “bubble” and for Nia to be a normal 18 month old kid that just so happens to be a little more petite than most her age and not quite a tooth yet- but that hasn’t slowed her down one bit! She is beautiful and fierce! She loves to giggle and tries to walk- but her broken heart causes her to take mini breaks only for her to speed up again! She doesn’t appear tired but we know at times she is! This is what I call supernatural abilities! Our girl is full of them! Her beautiful and infectious smile wipes away any sadness that we feel at times because all we’ve endured to get her to this day… We will continue to dance in the rain! ❤️❤️❤️

Prayer Requests

We request the following of all prayer warriors:

• Pray Nia continues to remain healthy and free of sickness pre-surgery

• Pray she has an uneventful surgery

• Pray that God gives the expert team the wisdom they need to perform their best on Nia

• Pray she is extubated quickly as possible post-surgery

• Pray she has a strong and speedy recovery

• Pray for continued amazing medical staff to care for our precious miracle baby

• Pray for minimal pain and that God will give her supernatural comfort

• Pray Nia has no setbacks before or after surgery

•  Pray for our strength as Nia’s parents and that God gives us endurance and perseverance.

• Most of all, pray for continued peace over us as we embark on this new part of Nia’s journey.

• Pray for traveling mercy as we travel to and from duPont

Many have asked how can I/we help? Please don’t feel obligated but if you wish, see link below!

https://mealtrain.com/q8vo45

Don’t forget to wear your T-shirts on April 16th!

His Grace is Sufficient. ~2 Corinthians 12:9

Thanks for continuing to follow Nia’s Journey! Your encouraging words, love, and support has meant so much!

Blessings,

ELS

It’s Hearth Health Month! 💗❤️💚

Last Friday, February 1st marked the beginning of Heart Health Month and the kick off began with National Wear Red Day to raise awareness on this issue. Heart Health Education and Awareness has always been near and dear to me because I have a family history of heart related conditions/diseases including genetically inclined high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, and heart arrhythmia.

Raising and Caring for a Heart Warrior

This health issue takes on a whole other meaning as I (We) am now raising a Miracle Heart Warrior. Being Nia’s mom has really increased my knowledge and awareness on the impact of congenital heart defects (CHD) to our everyday lives. Finding out Nia had a CHD initially felt like another dagger on our salted wound- especially with ominous news that our baby’s fate was pretty grim.

We held out a little faith and hope that just Maybe she didn’t have a CHD which could possibly increase her slim (to none) survival rate Hearing at 29 weeks gestation, Nia indeed had a CHD was heart-breaking. For me, I thought wow she probably won’t stand a chance. Seeing her local amazing cardiologist for the first time was overwhelming as Nia initially was diagnosed with a atrial septal defect (ASD) and ventricular septal defect (VSD) which meant if (and big If) Nia survived she would need surgery within the first 3-4 months of life. Well God had another plan- as we all know now- her VSD magically/divinely disappeared. It no longer showed on her echocardiogram (images of the heart) at birth! 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾 To see Nia pink on delivery day was and still is a magical visual moment forever in my heart and mind!

Since Nia has a un-repaired atrial septal defect (ASD)- hole in her heart and a leaky valve we’ve spent our winters hibernating her from others because of the high risk of flu and RSV. I’ve written numerous times how a cold could be deadly for her- and yes it is true until her heart is fixed! We are blessed and thankful she was approved for Synagis again which is a very expensive RSV antibody shot, that will help her body better handle such a deadly virus if she contracted it. Praying though we never have to face this diagnosis… I am continuing to pump liquid gold- breastmilk into her. 🙌🏾😊

To Family and Friends of CHD Warrior Parents…

If you know someone that has a baby with a CHD please understand and respect their wishes If you get an invite to visit but you feel like you are coming down with a cold or getting over a cold to just stay home… Yes it’s that serious! Don’t judge them for all the soap and hand sanitizer they have around their house, handbags, or back pocket. They are being extra cautious because their precious cargo is even more special 😘

If they won’t allow you to pick their baby up or visit be respectful too- as their doctor’s have already scared them enough, and they may have been hospitalized unexpectedly 1 too many times already, If they’ve had an extended NICU or Cardiac ICU stay then they are more than likely traumatized by the clinic setting and the thought of returning unexpectedly. Help them to not have to be Mama or Papa Bear because if you’ve met NICU and/or Heart Warrior Moms and Dads they are built a little different from other awesome moms and dads. 😉❤️

Congenital Heart Defect Facts

Below are some facts on Nia’s condition and CHD:

⁃ Ellis-van Creveld (EVC) babies have a 60-70 % chance of being born with a CHD which ranges from ASD, VSD, HLHS, and leaky valve (not all encompassing)

⁃ Babies with EVC have a restricted rib cage which complicates managing a CHD

⁃ According to research conducted by duPont Children’s Hospital and the Clinic for Special Children in Lancaster, PA, managing babies with EVC and CHD shows that if heart surgery is delayed until approximately 2 years of age there are no mortalities

Additional Facts about babies with CHD

⁃ According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 40,000 babies are born with a CHD every year

⁃ CHDs are a leading cause of birth defect-associated infant illness and death.

⁃ About 97% of babies born with a non-critical CHD are expected to survive to one year of age. About 95% of babies born with a non-critical CHD are expected to survive to 18 years of age. Thus, the population of people with CHDs is growing.

⁃ About 75% of babies born with a critical CHD are expected to survive to one year of age. About 69% of babies born with critical CHDs are expected to survive to 18 years of age.

Please help me/us raise awareness for Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) in babies!

For more information on raising heart health awareness see links below.

https://www.heart.org

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/links.html

Cheers to February Heart Health Month!

Blessings!

ELS

Erica, Antoine, and Nia

The Best Pic We Could Get as a Family for National Wear Red Day and for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (my sorority) Pink Goes Red! 💗💚💗💚❤️ Nia was all over the place! 😂😂😂

Paying It Forward Part II- New Year and Purpose

A 35 day plus government shutdown- working WITHOUT PAY, couldn’t stop our hearts from giving! Thanks to tremendous donations from our family and friends during the holidays and coordination with March of Dimes we were able to bless our 1st NICU Home on Saturday, INOVA Fairfax. We provided NICU families with a hot catered meal from Nando’s Peri Peri- our favorite local place while in the NICU.

A little bit of compassion and empathy can go a long way on this journey! We will never forget, which is why we are compelled to pay it forward! We pray this will be an annual event for us.

We were blessed by other moms, dads, and grandparents sharing their current NICU journeys with some intimate details of the hardship they are enduring… Their tears, hugs, laughter, and even a few smiles humbled us in so many ways- we could truly relate. Some parents had babies only a couple days old, but thankful to have a meal that they didn’t have to pay for or go far to get. All NICU parents want is to be with their babies!

Nia’s journey provided some comfort to the parents… You could see some of the fear, worry, and anxiety in their eyes thinking of their own babies, but our story gave them a little bit of hope and reassurance. When the situation looks dire, God can turn it around in an instant. To know our baby should have been DOA, but she is thriving 16 months later is truly miraculous. We pray that the parents we encountered on Saturday will be able to take their babies home in the next weeks or months.

We are on a mission to transform healthcare for babies, mothers, and fathers enduring long hospital stays or complex medical care through advocacy, knowledge, storytelling, and provider and patient engagement! Paying it forward is just a piece of this.

Peace and Blessings!

Erica

Erica, Antoine, and Nia

Link to Paying it Forward- Part I

https://niasjourney.com/2018/12/25/paying-it-forward-tis-the-season/

One Year NICU Graduation Anniversary Reflection- Nia’s Homecoming Day 01.24.2018

It’s been exactly one year (okay and one day) since Nia graduated from the NICU, Wow! Time surely does fly!

We are so grateful for this milestone. It’s fun seeing life in hindsight… I am still in awe of our miracle, and God’s miraculous works. According to science, Nia really shouldn’t be here and she almost wasn’t going to be… but God!!! Thinking of Nia’s Journey til this day still brings me chills- wow! The even more amazing part is that she is imperfectly perrfect. Through her rare dwarfism we’ve been humbled. Although this journey is not the parenthood assignment we initially wanted, it’s the assignment we needed- God chose us!!!

She is beauty, she is love, she is sweet, she is intelligent- seriously, she is funny (actually really hilarious). Beyond all those things our baby girl is here a year later, post 118- day NICU journey and thriving beyond any clinicians dreams (prognosis).

Nia has touched so many lives including ours. She has transformed us in ways we never imagined. Personally, I am on a journey to spread love, advice, knowledge, and awareness on navigating the healthcare system and complex medical needs. Who knew our journey would put us in a position to bless other families in this last year! Wow!

Nia’s journey has blown our minds. While we’ve had some unexpected setbacks we’ve had some unexpected blessings as well!We couldn’t be more grateful for our sweet angel!

Cheers to 1 Year Post-NICU Life!!! Nia will forever be a true #NICUWarrior

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

Blessings!

ELS

Erica, Antoine, and Nia


1 Year ago January 24, 2018

Picture on the left first day home and pic on right one year (and a day) home!

January 24, 2019 💚💚💚💚

Paying It Forward- ‘Tis the Season

In the midst of Nia’s all day routine medical appointments on Thursday, 20 December 2018, we managed to pull off paying it forward to current NICU (North and South) families at Nemours A.I. duPont Children’s Hospital.

Nia in good spirits at her last appointment before the Elf Squad made our special delivery ❤️❤️❤️

Thanks to tremendous monetary contributions from close family and friends we were able to spread a little love and prayerfully hope and words of encouragement to mothers and fathers by providing a hot catered meal from our favorite local place during our NICU stay, El Diablo and a little token of love that included a journal, Tag for Tots, and a gift card to Einstein Bagels which is located inside the hospital and not actually hospital food 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾.

We know this NICU journey is hard and lonely, and hospital food is even more depressing. Food is comfort and we wanted to make sure all the new moms and dads could enjoy a different food flair while now having a way to memorialize their thoughts, feeling or any pertinent information for the day (using their journal).

Our love for duPont is indescribable. Walking through the doors of the hospital we are always met with love, care, and compassion like I’ve never seen before. There is a vested interest and a sense of empowerment giving to us as parents to be in control of our child’s care.

Although we had appointments before dawn, all were timely and all doctors were cognizant we had a long day. We were so blessed to end our day of medical appointments by showering our former temporary home with a little love from us.

To all NICU parents currently enduring this journey- know there is hope… Our baby Nia was counted out even before she ever graced this earth on September 27, 2017 but a year plus later we are home and she is truly defying the odds! We pray that your NICU Warrior will do the same and graduate too!

Even if your journey doesn’t turn out the way you expected, know that you are awesome and amazing for fighting and advocating to no end for your biggest blessing yet- your NICU Warrior. Your unique journey is encouraging others. Your strength is not lost and you are not forgotten!

Peace and Blessings!

Merry Christmas!

~The Elf Squad aka The Shoemates~ Antoine, Nia, and Erica 🤗

In front of duPont Children’s Christmas Tree

NICU North ❤️❤️

NICU South (Original)- Nia’s former NICU home 😍❤️❤️
Happies for NICU Families

Up Close of Happy 🎁☺️

Week of Thankfulness… Thankful for My Sanity and the Ability to Nurture My Mental Health! 💚💚💚💚💚

#NiasJourney has been a complete roller coaster with many tears of joy and many tears of sadness- emotions that I couldn’t ever imagine…

The second half of my pregnancy I battled un-diagnosed depression after learning that Nia wouldn’t survive beyond birth and the recommendation for termination not once but twice at 20 and 21 weeks respectively. My heart couldn’t fathom or bear such pain… thinking of the death of our baby! Thoughts of how she would be delivered- possibly already dead flooded my mind at times- yet on the outside I continued to smile through the pain.

The Miracle(s)

 Nia appeared in this world defining all odds- breathing and screaming!! 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾

Then the long NICU stay- two different hospitals (INOVA Fairfax and duPont Children’s Hospital) in two different states. Before the NICU transfer, Nia coded twice, and after her transfer she had g-tube surgery.

BUTTT… on January 24, 2018 Nia was discharged from duPont Children’s NICU in Wilmington, DE and the road to home began!

 

Nia in car ride home after being discharged from the NICU! 2 hour car ride and she did great despite missing a whole feed!

Video of Nia’s First Car Ride HOME!!!!

Life at Home

After being home for a few weeks, I became super on edge and completely overwhelmed with Nia’s care despite having home health care, my mother moving from Memphis to help us, and  my awesome hubby being a team player… All those wonderful hands weren’t enough to keep the intrusive thoughts from invading my brain. I would imagine Nia’s g-tube being pulled out by moving her attached feeding cord, or her being dropped and bleeding, or the anticipation of her being cut straight down her chest from open heart surgery. I am sure while in the NICU I was in survival mode for so long- that I didn’t have time to think.

I tried to ignore these images for months. In the midst of battling intrusive thoughts, Nia caught a respiratory infection from one of her home health providers (that’s a story for another day) late February early March 2018 and deep down I felt overwhelmed with the thought of her having to be admitted to a hospital and we just got home! Thank God for her medical team! I sent videos to her duPont care team and contacted our local pediatrician and pulmonologist. She was treated aggressively since her threshold for getting sick is low. I kept pumping her with liquid gold and Pedialyte.  She felt better within a few days.

Nia’s 1st Hospitalization Post-NICU discharge

I became super snappy with my hubby and family, and then an unexpected hospitalization in April 2018 was the final straw.

Nia was admitted into the hospital for rectal bleeding completely unrelated to Ellis-van Creveld Syndrome (EVC) on Saturday, April 14, 2018. The fear of going back to INOVA Fairfax was real! The sound of the hospital emergency room monitors beeping sent me over the edge and I immediately burst into tears. I couldn’t help but think this hospital stay will be too much and the consultant model for medical specialists  in the hospital is one I despised! duPont Children’s  wasn’t set up that way.

Nia was hospitalized for almost a week and would’ve been longer had we not been super advocates for her!

Nia was admitted to the Pediatric Intermediate Care Step Down Unit. She was diagnosed with pneumatosis (air pockets in the small intestinal wall, likely caused by an infection). Initially the doctors thought it was Necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC, which is normally seen in premature babies.  Technically Nia didn’t fit the threshold. Thank God that was not the case.  Sunday the general surgeon, infectious disease doctor, and hospitalist came by at different times. I reiterated Nia must be evaluated from a holistic approach because of her complex medical condition- no decision can be made in a vaccuum.

We did have an amazing Resident doctor who we didn’t realize was a resident because guess what- He actually listened!

By Monday though, I was fed up with the communication disconnect between specialists, so during rounds I informed the team they all have to get on the same page- a conference needed to happen via phone or in-person.  I also advised that the hospialist speak with Nia’s expert cardiologist (she is located in Pennsylvania- but part of her EVC care team at duPont).

We were initially advised everyone was so busy- I don’t care if the specialists are consultants of the hospital and are busy- you are a physician first so you take care of the sick! This half communication and care isn’t going to work! The team said ooookay! Then the social worker asked did we want a family meeting, and I informed her we didn’t need a family meeting.  The medical team needed the meeting (See NICU journey about thoughts on family meetings) I know what family meetings mean at this hospital and I want nothing to do with it- can’t just appease us with words! We had actually considered transferring Nia to duPont after talking to her expert cardiologist.

I understood what was happening very well, and the team was not on the same page.

Nia was placed on bile rest meaning no food only IV Fluids and antibiotics. She is a trooper and didn’t get pissed about not having food until Tuesday night. Then she was hangry!

Vasovagal- WHAT’s THAT??

The Resident did contact Nia’s cardiologist in PA, and had an at length conversation. He was really impressed with her level of knowledge beyond just understanding the heart. There was discussion on what would happen next for Nia’s care during rounds Wednesday morning, and it eventually became too much for Antoine- he started to feel lightheaded and started sweating as were talking to the medical team. He had to be wheeled over to the emergency room and was diagnosed with vasovagal, which is when your body reacts to certain triggers of emotional distress and the hospital was one of them for Antoine on #Niasjourney.

Fast Forward- The team wanted to be conservative on re-introducing her feeds but she hadn’t passed blood in her stool since that Sunday. There was discussion of PICC line and then a central line because she might need to TPN… well we said absolutely not to a central line. This procedure is simple until it’s not! Nia’s expert cardiologist agreed…

Within 24 hours Nia was on pedialyte to get her GI system moving again… The team talked about the slow re-introduction of food and stated it might be Monday or Tuesday of the next week before we could go home! Then I became even more assertive! No we aren’t staying til Monday we are totally capable of taking care of Nia at home. We had already spent 118 days in the NICU and are young professionals. Yes we want the best for Nia but she is a trooper and can pass any test. So we requested the doctors test her on milk sooner rather than later.

Antoine and I informed the team Nia would get a introduction of milk by Friday and if she did well she would get two Bolus feeds Saturday morning via her G-tube and that’s it! Going HOME! That’s exactly what happened! Nia responded totally fine!

This hopsital won’t continue to add up $$$$ when its not necessary. I get being conservative about preventing re-admission but also it’s important to really understand our capability to take of care of our daughter and honestly all we’ve had to endure!

Back at Home after 1st Hospitalization- My Emotions

Post this hospitalization I would continue to have moments where I cried full of sorrow for Nia and our circumstance. I was angry at God at how it was completely unfair that we had to endure this journey and even more so Nia having to deal with so much. It had become too much! I wanted a normal baby like everyone else I knew. This was not the parenthood journey we imagined at all- tube feedings, home ventilator, and home health care.   I would cry anticipating the day someone would tease Nia for being a little person. I understand being teased all to well. I am not a little person but folks always loved to joke about my height and it gets old. My heart ached on so many levels because I wanted to protect my baby and just wanted a sense of normalcy.

Accountability for Mental Health Help

My best friend/sorority sister/linesister could hear through our phone conversations I wasn’t myself and she challenged me to  seek professional help. She held me accountable and gave me certain deadlines to make an appointment to see a therapist. I discussed with my hubby, mom, and baby sister some of my mental and emotional thoughts/feelings and they totally supported me! In the midst of these conversations, I also chatted with my girlfriend who is a psychiatrist. She was truly heaven sent on helping me navigate this process. It’s okay to not be okay….

Seeking Professional Help

I decided to see my original therapist from my pregnancy. After seeing her for a month she officially diagnosed me with Postpartum Anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to always being on edge, intrusive thoughts, and certain sounds causing such an emotional reaction. She recommended I see a psychiatrist as well that specialized in complex pregnancies, and postpartum anxiety due to extended NICU stays.

I saw her for a couple of months and realized I was getting anxiety just trying to make my appointments because she could only meet during core business hours- no evening or weekend appointments. It’s not easy getting around the DC area while working full time. She had provided me a therapist that oversaw a postpartum peer group.

I reached out to this therapist and she actually saw clients late evenings and weekends 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾 and on top of that she allows postpartum women to pay what they can afford for a year!! 💗💗💗🙌🏾🙌🏾 In between changing therapists, I met with a psychiatrist as well! What a blessing!

The psychiatrist recommended psychosomatic therapy (seeing a therapist- which I was already doing) plus pharmaceutical intervention. What a blessing. I was prescribed a medication to help with my postpartum anxiety and PTSD! The psychiatrist also provided a ton of research articles since I am still breastfeeding! The medicine is/was considered safe for lactating moms! 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

After leaving my first psychiatric appointment I felt relief, yet guilty and ashamed that I had to turn to a psychiatrist  for help with coping with my new normal. The stigma around seeking mental health help is real in the minority community, but I quickly got over that.

The Shift

Antoine started to notice a positive change in my behavior and I had a little more energy. I could bare our journey so much better. The Lord must’ve known prayer alone wouldn’t be enough on this journey for me because He always aligned the right people when I/we needed them.

Mental Health Balanced, Coping With More Unexpected Hospitalizations

Since seeking professional help, I’ve been able to cope with 3 additional unexpected emergency room visits with 2 ending in hospitalizations for Nia- they didn’t fully break me this time!

The month of September was a month of milestones and celebration of Nia’s 1st year of life including a one year photo shoot! September also included an unexpected 6-day hospitalization for Nia. This mama didn’t feel like the world was crumbling around her for a change. We sent Nia’s expert cardiologist videos of what was happening- Nia was having involuntary left eye closure. It was very concerning. She advised us to drive  2 hours to duPont immediately and Nia would be admitted to the Cardiac Center because of her CHD.  When we arrived the staff had already been put on notice we were en route.

The hospital stay was longer than we expected, but the team was amazing! Nia was assigned to the Cardiac Center stepdown because her expert team understood that although she wasn’t hospitalized necessarily for her heart condition she needed to be monitored by a team that is equipped to handle any surprises! The team over-communicated- from the hospitalists, neurologist, neurosurgeon ophthamologist, and cardiac anesthesiologist. It sucked to be back in the hospital but the team was exceptional. The hospitalist and resident came to see us early in the morning like clock work (between 7:30am and 8am everyday) and end of the shift so that we fully understood Nia’s plan of care and if there were any changes set to be made for the evening. We rounded with the team everyday, and I articulated the expectation of care for Nia and educated the team further on our baby and advocated for her to not be evaluated solely in textbook form. The team appreciated my advocacy and knowledge- even joked can we add you to team lol! 

There were no major concerns that came back from Nia’s 24 hour EEG or MRI/MRA. The team was stomped on the cause of these involuntary eye closures and decided that ear nose and throat (ENT) doctors should weigh in. The ENT team decided to put tubes in her ears. Nia was discharged from the hospital with new tubes and one anti-seizure medication to ensure that the team wasn’t missing small seizure activity that wasn’t showing on CT, EEG, or MRI tests. Nia was discharged that same evening after tubes were placed.

The silver lining of it all Nia did not have to spend her 1st year birthday in the hospital! 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾

Another Emergency Room Visit for Nia- Deep Sigh

Fast forward two weeks later Nia fell down the stairs with one of her home health nurses. I had literally just missed the accident. I walked in our home from work at 7pm and all I heard was my baby screaming at the top of her lungs. This lasted 25 minutes straight! I literally think therapy and my meds keep me from losing my sh$$ to be quite frank!

I took her to the emergency room at INOVA Fairfax  for evaluation.  There were so many sick people- coughing and all. We stayed outside until it was time to be seen- couldn’t risk any additional sickness. Nia checked out fine but was completely startled and didn’t want to be put down- which was understandable. We were able to go home the same night. Thank God! The home health nurse was very apologetic, but apologies don’t help dead babies- my exact words!

Nia’s 2nd Post Hospitalization- Follow Up Appointments

The next week, Tuesday, October 9th,  we traveled back to duPont for Nia’s post hospital stay follow up appointments. We saw the neurologist, neurosurgeon, ENT, ophthalmologist. Nia’s  pulmonologist briefly stopped by to check on her and warned us to lay low while visiting the hospital because adenovirus and some other respiratory virus had already been going around. We followed his guidance, but apparently that wasn’t enough.

Nia’s 3rd Hospitalization- yes third!!!

By Wednesday night Nia had a low grade fever and by Thursday morning her temperature was 101. I was at a local conference for work and Antoine was at work so my mom took Nia to the pediatrician! Well the pediatrician advised that Nia needed to be taken to the emergency room because she was working harder to breathe. By the time my mom made it to the emergency room, Nia’s fever was 105. On this day- I did break down and cry- I was tired and exhausted! My baby couldn’t catch a break and we as her parents couldn’t either! We really try to take all precautions because of her heart but still wanting to live and do day to day things- it’s so hard!!! More than likely she picked up something while at duPont for follow-ups.

Nia was admitted for overnight observation.

My mom was super helpful and went home to pack our overnight bag for us so we could be with Nia. The next morning I showered at the hospital and went to work while Antoine and my mom held down the fort. It was so difficult leaving Nia behind for work- really hate feeling like I have to balance being a professional and a mom- especially with complex needs! I am an awesome professional but a little more flexibility would be definitely beneficial. Despite having to be a supermom/superwoman, I am so thankful for an amazing support system. Nia was discharged while I was at work, but then I received another call on my way home that my niece had been rushed to the hospital so I had to leave work and rush to the hospital to check on her- WHEW!

In the midst of the hospitalizations, I am truly thankful I have my sanity and awesome behavioral health support system too.

Challenge to Family and Friends of New Mothers

It’s so important to really check on your family and friends beyond the one or two months postpartum because postpartum anxiety and depression are real. It’s even more important when your friends are  NICU Warrior Mamas and/or Daddies! I challenge all family and friends check on those that may suffer from any tough times in life or mental health issues- encourage them to seek the help that’s need and help them to realize it’s okay to ask for professional assistance.

The pics below are what Postpartum Anxiety and PTSD look like…

image-18

A Mended Broken Heart

Moral of the story: there is not always a certain look- broken and hurting people can clean up very well… The smile you see in these pics are genuine and pure- but my heart  has been crushed along this journey! I am thankful for a mended broken heart, mind, and spirit!

I am so grateful for my hubby, mom, sisters, bffs, prayer warriors and strangers that think of us and pour out love across the globe! It is much appreciated!

I am a better version of me because I realized (and so did others) I was not myself- which is normally a person that sees life as a glass half full. My glass felt half empty at times despite the blessing that God bestowed upon us on September 27, 2017.

God’s provision for my life and purpose for me and my family continued to prosper in spite of the emotional and mental struggle at times of #Niasjourney… which could’ve broken me forever- but I choose life and positivity and all the blessings my God has for us on this path!

God has truly blessed me (us) in my/our brokenness 🙏🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾💗💗💗💗

No Weapons Formed Against Me Shall Prosper. ~Isaiah 54:17

I Can Do All Things Through Christ, Which Strengthens Me. ~Phil 4:13

Blessings,

ELS

Week of Thankfulness- Thankful to Celebrate Thanksgiving Full Circle With Nia at Home! 🙌🏾🍁🍁🍁❤️❤️❤️

I am thankful for the breath of Life and Thanksgiving Outside of the NICU 🙌🏾🙌🏾😍💗💗💗💗🍁

Thanksgiving last year we split our time between attempting to celebrate our blessings at home and then making our way to be with Nia in the NICU.

We are so incredibly thankful for a sweet friend that brought a whole Thanksgiving Dinner to us during our NICU journey last year! Alexis and Jeff W- we love you all!

As I write this post, I am incredibly emotional as this is another milestone for us! We are home this year for Thanksgiving and all together. We woke up this morning with sleeping arrangements a little different from most parents with a toddler. Since our home health Nurse called out last night, Antoine and I had to camp out on Nia’s bedroom floor so she could sleep in her own bed. Our journey doesn’t allow the freedom for Nia to sleep alone without being monitored! Yes we have a camera/monitor in her room! Antoine is an Engineer and gadget guru 🤣🤣🤗❤️ BUT we have to make sure Nia doesn’t flip over and put her entire face in her mattress. So before we went to sleep we had to place her pulse oximeter on. Nia fell asleep before her Triology/CPAP could be put on- so we just winged it and let her be- back to us being dubbed as the #WingitParents because of this journey. We don’t always follow the rules or doctors’ orders every night- and just thankful today we don’t have to since Nia is a little stronger! So no machine last night but we made a pallet on the floor instead to hear her breathe and not solely rely on a machine to tell us if her oxygen saturation or heart rate dropped too low!

Our Thanksgiving Morning 2018! Pallet and Pulse Oximeter- the simple things!

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Thanksgiving 2018- we are thankful for our eternal God allowing us the gift of life- birthing and parenthood experience beyond the walls of the NICU. We will never take it for granted! We are thankful for Nia’s medical equipment and devices- Infinity Feed Pump, syringes, g-tube (Mini one profile), g-tube extensions, bolus and gravity feed. Gravity feeds are lifesaver on time when we are exhausted- thank you Antoine for being risky and trusting that Nia can handle it. We are thankful for Lasix, which helps prevent fluid build up around Nia’s heart and lungs with her congenital heart defect. We are thankful to be able to continue to produce breastmilk as an exclusive pumper- 13.5 months postpartum! 💗💗💗

We are thankful for Nia’s triology/CPAP which expedited her discharge from the NICU at duPont Children’s. We are thankful for Nia’s expert medical team including the local DMV team- her pediatrician is a jewel and rockstar; duPont Children’s (NICU and Cardiac Center) and expert cardiologist in Lancaster, PA! We love you all! We are even thankful for INOVA’s NICU team for taking care of Nia for the first two months of life (despite some mishaps and frustrations along the way)! Much love to Dr. B and some of our NICU nurses- now forever friends!

We are thankful for our new family and friends we’ve made in the NICU at INOVA Fairfax and duPont Children’s Hopsital! What an awesome and amazing blessing seeing our babies a year later and watching other amazing Warrior parents in action advocating for their precious gifts too!

My emotions are raw and real and can’t help but think of the families that have lost loved ones and precious babies that may have never experienced life outside of the hospital! We love you all and truly thinking of you today! Our hearts ache for you- because we understand all too well the fragility of life! One minute things can be fine and the next minute things go south- we’ve been there- Nia coded twice right after Thanksgiving last year! Please know that your are loved and not alone! We see you and you can reach out anytime- morning, night, overnight!

All I can say is God what a difference a year makes! We couldn’t have made it without your divine intervention- God’s grace and mercy brought us through and continues to do so- even through frustration, pain and chaos! Death was for certain for our sweet Nia- #ButGod #MadeAWay

It’s not about all the food we can eat today but about the unwavering love God has shown us and the insurmountable strength He has given us along this journey! We are thankful for every single moment we get to be Nia’s parents here on this Earth!

Happy Thanksgiving! Be Thankful for the small things! #NiasJourney #ButGod

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. ~Psalm 9:1

Pics from Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving Morning 2018- Beautiful Nia asleep in her own bed #FearfullyandWonderfullyMade

This post is dedicated to all NICU, Cardiac ICU, and parents that have lost their sweet babies too soon! Today is not easy as you see posts of new gifts of life at home or out and about, and you are sitting in the hospital by your baby’s side instead OR having to relive the would’ve, could’ve of the life you yearned for your heavenly angel babies to be! Love you all! Sending hugs and love your way! 😘😍😍😍❤️❤️❤️

Blessings,

Erica, Antoine, and Nia