When the unexpected happens - Newborn Intensive Care Unit


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Kelly Watts had a completely normal pregnancy. On March 2, 2011 she gave birth at Miami Valley Hospital to a beautiful 10-pound five oz. baby girl, Ryleigh. She never expected that two weeks later her precious newborn would be in the Regional Level III Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Dayton Children’s.

After giving birth, Kelly brought Ryleigh home to their house in Dayton and began to start a normal routine together. One morning, their routine was shaken when she noticed that Ryleigh’s left breast had become enlarged, hard and red. Kelly immediately took Ryleigh to their pediatrician who sent them to the Soin Pediatric Trauma and Emergency Center at Dayton Children’s. Ryleigh was diagnosed with a staph infection and Kelly was told that her 2-week-old would have to stay in the NICU for two weeks.

“I was a mess,” says Kelly. “As a first-time mom I just kept thinking, ‘what did I do wrong?’ But everyone at Dayton Children’s assured me that it wasn’t my fault and helped to make our stay there the best that it could be.”

Because of her age, Ryleigh was placed in the NICU in order to receive the care she needed. However at almost 13 pounds, Ryleigh was much bigger than most of the tiny babies that generally make up the NICU. The nurses made sure to go to other parts of the hospital to get clothes and diapers that would fit Ryleigh since most of the NICU ones were too small!

 “The nurses in the NICU were all very helpful and extremely caring,” says Kelly. “I hadn’t gotten much sleep and one day one of the nurses, Kerri, said to me ‘Kelly, you sleep. If Ryleigh wakes up, I got it!’ This meant the world to me; I think I slept nine hours that night!”

“After having a child here myself two years ago in the NICU I got a new perspective of what it feels like to be a mom whose just given birth and is sleep deprived and emotional,” says Kerri Scott, RN, BSN, NICU nurse. “I saw that in Kelly and recognized that as the way I felt.”

Kelly and Ryleigh also worked closely with a number of doctors at Dayton Children’s including Sherman Alter, MD, medical director, infectious disease; Patricia Abboud, MD, critical care; and Jeffrey Pence, pediatric surgery, who performed a procedure on Ryleigh to drain her breast. Because their pediatrician had computer access to Ryleigh’s records at his office, he was able to stay up to date with her progress and assure Kelly that Ryleigh was going to be ok.

Having a child in the NICU comes with long days and long nights. With the amount of time that Kelly spent by Ryleigh’s bedside, she had the chance to form relationships with the many of the other moms.

“It was a family atmosphere,” says Kelly. “We all supported each other and all of the babies. They would say to me, ‘I am so sorry this is happening to you!’ even though many times their child was much sicker than Ryleigh.”

 Kelly also loved that because she was responsible for feeding Ryleigh, the nurses made sure she was well fed! They also provided her with a breast pump so if she did have to leave the hospital, she could still provide a nutritional meal to her baby.

Toward the end of their stay in the NICU, Ryleigh came down with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and had to be transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for a short time where she was treated by Dr. Abboud.

“Ryleigh came down with RSV because she had been exposed to the outside world,” says Dr. Abboud. “She had to be transferred to the PICU because it can be extremely contagious and dangerous for the babies in the NICU. Once she came to us she recovered fairly quickly and was able to go home.”

Two weeks after they first came to Dayton Children’s, Kelly was able to take Ryleigh home. However, unbeknownst to Kelly, it would not be long before they had to return.

Just two months later on Mother’s Day weekend, Kelly found that Ryleigh had developed a very high fever. Knowing the care that Ryleigh had received the last time, Kelly immediately took her to the emergency center at Dayton Children’s. This time Ryleigh was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and was going to have to stay in the hospital for two to three days.

“I couldn’t believe we were back again, but I knew that Ryleigh was getting the best care possible,” says Kelly. “Now at 7 months old Ryleigh is a happy and healthy baby thanks to Dayton Children’s. Every time we told someone that Ryleigh was at Dayton Children’s, they always responded with ‘Oh sweetie, she is in good hands, you have nothing to worry about!’

Dayton Children’s Regional Level III Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is the Dayton region's referral center for premature and sick newborns, as well as many baby-related emergencies.

Ryleigh 1
Ryleigh in NICU
Ryleigh in NICU 2


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