After an Early Arrival, Mother and
Few people would ever wish for a long hospital stay. But in August 2010, when Rasheen Crowder, 29, was admitted to Abington Memorial Hospital, she was hoping she’d be there for weeks, if not months. The longer she stayed as a patient on the Maternal Observation and Monitoring (MOM) Unit, the better the chance that the 22-week old baby she was carrying would survive.
She’d had a normal ultrasound just a few weeks earlier. But at a follow-up appointment to obtain images of the baby’s spine, she observed something unusual on the monitor.
“I noticed that my cervix looked like it was open,” she recalls. “I didn’t believe what I was seeing at first, but when the technician left the room and didn’t come back for a while, I knew something was wrong.”
Doctors confirmed that her cervix was indeed four centimeters dilated, and it was too late for a cerclage procedure to temporarily sew it closed. Her best option was to stay on the MOM unit, on complete bed rest, to delay labor for as long as possible.
“My body was aching, and I was scared,” Rasheen says. She was also reeling from a series of devastating shocks. In July, her sister had been murdered, leaving behind four children. Then her fiancée, Jamar, had become ill with severe stomach pains that landed him in the hospital for five days.
Words of Hope
As an aspiring nursing student, Rasheen understood medical terminology better than the average patient, and she absorbed everything about how her baby was doing. She knew that the baby’s heartbeat looked fine, and that she was lucky that she wasn’t experiencing contractions. But she was most heartened not by clinical indicators, but by the confidence of the medical staff.
One of her biggest cheerleaders was OB/GYN Amory Meigs, MD. “Dr. Meigs sat down and talked with me and said that she had ‘a good feeling’ about me,” Rasheen recalls. “That gave me a lot of hope.”
“When you’ve been in practice for a while, you get a certain sense about patients, no matter what the clinical scenario,” Dr. Meigs says. “I had a strong feeling that Rasheen and her baby were going to be okay.”
The support of the nurses was also critical. “They assured me that they’d seen many mothers in my situation who had gone on to do just fine,” Rasheen says.
She also was able to rely on the comfort of Jamar and her three-year-old son Zaire, who could visit her in her private room at any time; on the weekends, Jamar could even sleep over. In fact, she had just begun to get comfortable with a routine when, at 25 weeks, she suddenly went into labor.
Coming Out Fighting
In the operating room, while undergoing a C-section, Rasheen could think of only one thing. “I was hoping the baby would come out crying,” she says. When she heard what sounded like “a little mouse squeak,” she celebrated.
Tiny Jibreel, weighing in at just one pound, 12 ounces, was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and for Rasheen and her family, a whole new waiting game began. Jibreel underwent numerous tests that showed that although his heart was strong, he had some bleeding in his brain. One day he would appear to be doing better, and the next he would have an episode of sleep apnea or another complication. He was given oxygen and blood transfusions. An ENT diagnosed him with laryngomalacia, a softening of the tissues of the voice box, which caused breathing difficulties.
Rasheen stayed at his side, coming back every day after she was released from the hospital on August 28th. She made sure she was there when the doctors did rounds, and she clung to reassurance from the nurses.
“One of the nurses shared with me that she’d had a premature baby too,” she says. “Hearing that story helped. And when I admitted that I was afraid to bring Jibreel home, the nurses gave me the confidence and training I needed.”
Home at Last
On November 29th, 96 days after his birth, Jibreel was finally ready to go home, with an oxygen supply, sleep apnea monitor and suction device in tow. But it was far from smooth sailing from there.
The first year of his life was filled with medical appointments with various specialists, from pulmonologists to hematologists to gastroenterologists. Rasheen and Jibreel’s pediatrician, Marylee Mundell, DO, also had to be persistent to get Jibreel the physical, occupational and speech therapy he needed.
But in his second year, Jibreel hit several important milestones. He started walking and talking, and today he speaks more than 200 words and is starting to express himself in short sentences. He’s continued to progress at his own pace, becoming a cheerful, curious baby with stunning blue eyes who plays happily with his big brother and loves his new daycare.
Rasheen hit several milestones, as well. She entered nursing school at LaSalle University, went back to work, and in March 2012, she and Jamar got married. She’s on track to earn her RN degree next December, and she’s decided to specialize in neonatal care.
“I’ll never forget what the MOM and NICU staff did for me; they shared their personal experiences, made me feel secure, connected me with resources and talked me through the toughest periods,” she says. “Now I want to give other people the same hope they gave me.”