Steven’s Incredible Journey Begins with 140-Day NICU Stay

steven-lefevre-nicu-photoMegan Lefevre’s first pregnancy was a difficult one. She threw up about three times a day and lost 12 pounds in the process. But the difficulties she endured during her pregnancy did not prepare her or her husband, Paul, for the challenges that lay ahead when their son, Steven, was born prematurely at 27 weeks on Oct. 24, 2012 –three months early.

“I woke up with terrible back pain and my stomach was as hard as a rock,” the Woodbury resident recalled. Following a 12-hour stay in a local hospital, Megan was transferred to UConn Health at John Dempsey Hospital for the next four days. While there, she gave birth to Steven, who weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces, and measured 15½ inches long. But after 28 hours in Connecticut Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Farmington, Steven was rushed to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center NICU in Hartford, where he underwent emergency surgery to fix a perforation in his small intestine.

It was the first of several surgeries, dozens of procedures and “countless scares” for Steven’s parents. Steven remained in Connecticut Children’s Level 4 NICU for the next 140 days and returned several times to the Medical Center for follow-up treatment and hospitalization.

Big Scares
“Our first big scare was driving from Farmington to Hartford,” said Megan, who teaches first grade in Oakville. “We worried whether our baby would live.” “At one week old, Steven had a grade 2 brain bleed and increased fluid,” Megan said. “The following week, he had a grade 3 brain bleed with increased fluid. The blood vessels in premature babies’ brains are very fragile and can burst easily,” she explained.

lefevremomchild4x6Their second big scare came when Steven needed surgery for hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain after brain bleeds. Initially, a reservoir was placed from which the neurosurgeons could draw off the extra fluid as needed. After his brain bleeds, Steven had pauses in his breathing because of the increased pressure in his brain from his hydrocephalus.

“His heart rate would drop and his blood oxygen level would drop,” Paul said. “Sometimes he would turn gray, other times he would turn blue and need oxygen resuscitation.” After undergoing shunt surgery to permanently drain the extra fluid, Steven was remarkably better, his father said.

Overcoming the Obstacles
From pneumonia and chronic lung disease to an enlarged liver and urinary tract infections, Steven fought many battles in his first few days, weeks and years of life. From weekly eye exams for grade 3 retinopathy of prematurity that can lead to blindness – to surgery for a tethered spinal cord – he also underwent numerous procedures and has been followed by many specialists along the way, including Marilyn Sanders, MD, a Connecticut Children’s neonatologist, who cared for Steven during his NICU hospitalizations. “He had many problems typically seen in very preterm babies and some unusual ones, including surgical and growth concerns,” said Dr. Sanders, who continues to follow him in Connecticut’s Children’s Neurodevelopmental Follow-up Program. “Given how sick he was in the NICU, he has done amazingly well.”

“Steven came home from the hospital in March of 2013,” his mother said. “He began rolling around at 10 months, sitting at 12 months, crawling at 18 months and walking at 2 years of age.”

In October 2015, at age 3, he started preschool. “He can walk, he can talk. He’s an easygoing child, who is very likeable and very social,” Megan said.

steven-lefevre-family-photo-fall-2016Grateful for Care
Steven’s family – which includes half-brother Matthew, 17, and sister Shayla, who turned 1 in March – is happy about his progress.

“We are so grateful for how well he is doing because of the amazing help he received,” said Megan, who keeps in touch with many of Steven’s caregivers at Connecticut Children’s. “He had the best care possible.”

How Dancing Makes A Difference: Crystal’s Story

By Eliza Kanner, HuskyTHON

crystal-1_huskythonOn February 18 more than 2,500 HuskyTHON participants will dance all through the night. They will spend 18 hours on their feet, dancing to raise funds for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. When I spoke to Crystal Torraco on a Sunday afternoon, she was enjoying a day off after spending the previous night on her feet, but rather than spending it at the student recreation center at the University of Connecticut, she was making her rounds as a Registered Nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Connecticut Children’s.

Crystal spent her college days heavily involved with organizations at UConn that pride themselves in community service and philanthropic efforts. She was a counselor at Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut, and held numerous leadership positions within HuskyTHON. Dancers are asked to find their “why,” and Crystal’s “why” has changed since working at Connecticut Children’s. “I danced for my future patients and now, I donate to those who dance for the patients I take care of each and every day,” Crystal said.

Working at Connecticut Children’s was Crystal’s first choice when applying to jobs after graduating from Northeastern University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program. “(Being involved with) HuskyTHON allowed me to go into the hospital and really see the impact it was making. So when it came down to applying for jobs, I knew I wanted to work in a children’s hospital…the first thing that came to mind was Connecticut Children’s.”

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit strives to have continuity of care, so Crystal is with the same patient family for an extended period of time. “We take the extra time to explain things to parents and to get them involved. We value it so much” Crystal explained.

Crystal feels the impact of HuskyTHON every day at work. “Huge fundraisers like HuskyTHON that go toward the hospital allows us to go beyond the normal supplies we need, it allows us to get newer technology, newer products. It helps us continually advance.”

crystal-huskython_dancersBabies born premature (prior to 32 weeks) or weighing 1500 grams (around 2.2 lbs.), are immediately placed in a giraffe warmer. This lifesaving incubator and radiant warmer auto regulates the temperature to provide a healing environment for the baby. HuskyTHON’s goal is to utilize the money raised on “100K in One Day” to purchase four giraffe warmers for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“Even one giraffe makes all the difference in a baby’s life, and the care we can provide,” Crystal said. “That’s their safe place–it’s what is keeping them warm and happy and lets us do our job safely and effectively.”

“It makes a huge difference. If we didn’t have the resources and the technology that allows us to do our job every day, it would be really hard,” Crystal said when asked about the impact HuskyTHON has for Connecticut Children’s.

“It’s hard to really see the impact you’re making when dancing, but to see it day by day in my job–and be able to do my job because of the impact HuskyTHON has–it’s huge. It’s really awesome.”

#GivingTuesday: Michael’s Story

This #GivingTuesday, you have the power to make more tomorrows possible …

michael-ramsdell-and-mother-amanndaMichael was born three months before his due date. At that age, a baby faces dire health challenges and Michael was no exception, weighing just 2 pounds, 2 ounces. This beautiful little boy underwent multiple brain surgeries, experienced bleeding in his lungs and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Michael faced life threatening challenges at every turn but because of the caliber of care he received at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, went home with his parents after 3 months in intensive care. Today, Michael is doing great, starting to crawl and learning to stand. “He continues to be happy and is getting stronger each day” says his mother, Amannda.

You have the power to make miracles happen for children like Michael and mothers like Amannda. Today, #GivingTuesday, make a child’s tomorrow possible. Every dollar can make a difference. Learn more at www.connecticutchildrensfoundation.org/givingtuesday.

#GivingTuesday: Dylan’s Story

Today is #GivingTuesday, a global event where people make donations and show support for nonprofit organizations working to improve our world…organizations like Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Whether it’s a little girl with a rare blood disease, a newborn with a heart defect or a seven-year-old boy facing cancer, there is hope here because you were there when they needed you. At Connecticut Children’s that’s what #GivingTuesday is all about: making a difference, saving lives, and delivering dreams—giving children a brighter tomorrow.

dylan-coutu-4Born 15 weeks early and weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces, Dylan’s life was threatened at every turn. In his very first moments, his tiny, frail body suffered from brain bleeds, lung failure, a perforated intestine and a heart attack, in which he coded before being revived. This inspiring little boy continued to face one crisis after another.

But the dedicated doctors, nurses and specialists at Connecticut Children’s were there for Dylan every step of the way and managed every one of his issues. Today, 10 months later, Dylan weighs more than 13 pounds, is eating solid foods and loves Cookie Monster and the Count from Sesame Street. “He talks and laughs non-stop and is truly a happy baby!” says his mother, Kathryn.

Dylan’s happy ending is just one example of the kind of difference you can make in celebration of #GivingTuesday. Today people around the world will make donations to non-profit organizations that help make the world a better place. By making a donation to Connecticut Children’s and sharing this post, you can make a child’s tomorrow possible – children throughout the region like Dylan. Donate now at www.connecticutchildrensfoundation.org/givingtuesday.

Anthony’s Story

By Jessie, Anthony’s Mother

anthony_babyAfter having a near perfect pregnancy, I went to the hospital with labor pains at 34 weeks.  I completely expected to be sent home, thinking it was a false alarm.  After multiple attempts to stop labor, I was shocked when the doctor told us they couldn’t do anything else and the baby would be born in the next few hours.

They assured me he would have to go to the NICU but would be just fine.  As new parents we were terrified.  We were thrown a curve ball when the doctor told us there weren’t any beds left in the Connecticut Children’s NICU and the baby would have to be transported to another hospital and we would stay behind until I recovered.  He quickly said “I will see what I can do,” then came back within a few minutes and told us they had a bed in the Connecticut Children’s NICU with our name on it.  Our son, Anthony, was born a few hours later.

Although he was relatively healthy and considered late pre-term, he had bradycardia which would cause his heart rate to drop.  We were quickly jolted into the NICU life of monitors and beeps and awaiting the doctors’ rounds each morning.   Thanks to the rooms available to NICU parents, I basically moved into the hospital.

There were so many great nurses and doctors, like Dr. Marilyn Sanders, that not only gave our child great care but helped us through one of the most tumultuous times in our life.  They released our son on Christmas Day in 2012 – by far the best gift we could have ever gotten!  He came home on a heart rate monitor and stayed on it for four months.

anthonyI looked forward to our checkups with Connecticut Children’s and could not have been more thrilled when I got the final call that he was cleared and that we didn’t need to carry the clunky heart rate monitor around.  He is now a happy and healthy, almost 4 year old. The NICU experience is one that I will never, ever forget.  Although it was one of the toughest times in my life, I am forever grateful for the care provided by Connecticut Children’s.

 

Got Milk?

Eagle Intern Fellowship Program

Blog Picture

My twin and I were born six weeks prematurely, weighing less than seven pounds combined. These special circumstances surrounding my birth have helped to shape my passion for medicine. For as long as I can remember, I have always dreamed of becoming an obstetrician and working with moms and their newborns. My internship with the Connecticut Human Milk Research Center has exposed me the various components of importance in the treatment of premature infants, one being their nutrition.

Premature infant nutrition an elaborate field within it of itself. The complex diet of these sick and tiny babies is imperative to their current and future health. The Connecticut Human Milk Research Center and NICU at CCMC strives to encourage feeding all of its NICU babies breast milk, as it supports healthy growth and development and can protect against a plethora of conditions, such as necrotizing enterocolitis, allergies, asthma, and obesity.

Before…

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