Navigating the NICU Journey

Until it happens to you, you can’t really understand what it’s like to be the parent of a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The NICU can be a place of intense stress, celebration, fear, and joy—and it’s your baby’s first home.

In Brittany Lohmeyer’s case, her pregnancy was going as expected until the 20-week ultrasound, when doctors noted that the baby was unusually small. Eight weeks later, after unexpectedly developing HELLP syndrome (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelets—a variant of preeclampsia), Brittany was rushed to Kettering Health Main Campus where her son Maverick was born at only 28 weeks.

A home away from home

The NICU team strives to create a supportive and comfortable environment while providing exceptional clinical care. “The NICU becomes an unexpected home away from home,” says Ginny Dalton, NICU clinical nurse manager for Kettering Health Main Campus.

Each room in the Level III NICU is a private room with a bathroom and shower. Skin-to-skin recliner chairs at every bedside allow for crucial bonding, and a comprehensive team of specialists provide care at the baby’s bedside.

“We have more than 80 nurses on our team, and families tell us over and over that it’s clear every person who steps into the room genuinely loves babies,” says Dalton. “There’s an intimate bond between clinicians and families in the NICU. In a way, you have to share your baby with the team.”

Dalton also notes how vital—and often overlooked—it is to emphasize parental wellness. “Our NICU care is whole-family care. You can’t take care of baby without taking care of family.”

Celebrating every win

Maverick was in the NICU for 70 days, “which is a lot shorter than for many other families,” Brittany notes, adding that throughout the journey, it’s crucial to celebrate every win. “The days are long, and the weeks are even longer. Focus on that one gram your baby gains,” she says. “Write down the wins so when you have a rough day, you can look back and reflect on the progress.

Brittany and her husband, Jaron, still celebrate when Maverick gains one pound, she says. “Some people ask, ‘When will you stop tracking every pound?’ Maybe never. We used to count grams.” Now, 9-month-old Maverick, who weighed 1 pound 9 ounces at birth, is up to 14 pounds.

Finding support

Not long after Maverick’s NICU stay, Brittany, along with fellow NICU parents Emily O’Brien and Megan Albrecht, founded a support group called Karing for You.

“The NICU experience can be lonely, especially if you don’t know anyone who has had a child with medical issues,” Brittany says. Karing for You connects NICU families, offers support, and emphasizes the importance of caring for yourself as a parent.

The group typically meets twice a month in the evenings. Meeting locations and dates are shared via a private Facebook group.

Brittany explains that Karing for You has three goals:

  • To reach out and offer resources for current NICU families
  • To support veteran NICU families, including bereaved parents
  • To fundraise to support the group’s growth

Brittany says that nearly every parent in the group expresses their desire to support other NICU parents. “It’s a really special community focused on helping one another.”

The Karing for You community has grown quickly and is open to all NICU parents throughout the Greater Dayton area. “We’re excited and eager,” says Brittany. “We want to support everyone and help them know they’re not alone.”

To connect with Karing for You, reach out to [email protected] .

Kettering Health’s NICU and Obstetric Level III celebrates a Decade of Miracles this year. We recognize and applaud the lifesaving care our staff has provided to the babies who need it.

For more information about neonatal care services at Kettering Health, visit ketteringhealth.org/neonatal-care.

 

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