Christmas Wishes Come True

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By News Team on December 23, 2016

Kathryn Baker’s work days begin before the sun rises at the region’s only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Carilion Children's Hospital. Also called the NICU, there are parts of Kathryn's day that are routine. She clocks in, attends the morning huddle, and during the hand off, she learns about how the babies she will care for have been doing the previous 12 hours. Each part of a baby's care is purposeful and planned out.

"We want to cluster everything because they need to grow, they need to get better and then go home," Kathryn explained.

Hollie's parents, Brenna and Michael, knew she would need to stay in the NICU because she was born a month and a half early in September.

"Everything looked normal,” said Brenna “She was three pounds and fifteen ounces at birth; she was just really small. She was taken to the NICU and I thought, surely to goodness she will come home in a couple of weeks.”

But, Hollie’s stomach began to swell. A valve in her intestines did not close during pregnancy. Hollie’s parents were told that she needed surgery to try to correct the problem.

“We were really scared, but we knew the surgery was necessary,” Brenna said. “It was life or death.”

Weeks became months in the NICU. After her second surgery in December, Hollie's family hoped she would be home for Christmas.

Kathryn knows that families want answers.

“The golden question is, 'when can they go home?'," she said. "You don’t want to take their hope, but you don’t also want to promise something you can’t keep.  I cannot tell you what will happen with Hollie.”

"The nurses and doctors here have really made us feel like family,” said Brenna. “They really make us feel comfortable about leaving our baby.”

Then, 11 days after the second surgery on Dec. 9, Hollie's family learned their little girl was ready to go home.

“We have been waiting for this day; it seems like forever,” said Michael. “This is the best Christmas present I believe we have ever had.”

The moment Hollie’s parents hoped for came sooner rather than later. During her stay in the NICU, Hollie gained four pounds and a lot of supporters. 

“The best day is when they get to go home,” said Kathryn as she helped the family get ready to go home.

Carilion Clinic’s 60-bed NICU is staffed with 24-hour coverage from a neonatologist, neonatal nurse practitioners and 110 registered nurses who care for about 1,000 of the sickest babies in our area each year.