How about some good news today? I'm delighted to share this inspiring story of a young girl, a 12 year old NICU grad, giving back. She's so sweet & generous, and her story is a great reminder that preemies are amazing!
My name is Taylor, and I was a pre-term baby born at 35 weeks. I was in the NICU for the first three weeks of my life at Penrose Community Hospital in Colorado Springs. I was also on oxygen for the first 4 months of my life and struggled to breathe.
I am now a healthy 12 year old that is very athletic and a 4.0 student. I play competitive soccer, school volleyball, snowboard at high altitudes and I sometimes run with my mom for fun and in races. I have been a Girl Scout for 6 years and am writing this blog to share with the world my success story as a preemie baby and to help educate about the cause in order to earn my Silver Award.
For the past year, I have been working on my Girl Scout Silver Award Project to help educate parents about pre-term babies. First, I completed some research on this cause and found that out of all babies born each year, 12% are born before 37 weeks and face different challenges entering this world. There has been a 36% increase in the number of premature babies since 1980 and awareness needs to be brought to this cause.
I used this information and interviewed the NICU head nurse here in Colorado Springs to find out what pre-term babies and parents need. I spent the next 6 months fundraising money to put toward pre-term baby education kits. In the last two months and through my fundraising and donations, I was able to put together 60 kits which include:
1. Bottle - Pre-term babies need a controlled-flow bottle when learning to use a bottle.
2. Mints - Parents of pre-term babies spend lots of time at the hospital and mints will help with fresh breath
3. Bottled water - It is important that the parents stay hydrated and get plenty of rest 4. Premature diaper -Most pre-term babies are below average birth weight, so they require smaller diapers
5. Hand sanitizer - Pre-term babies are more able to get sick. It is important to wash hands often and use a hand sanitizer before touching your child.
6. Bookmark - Parents spend a lot of time reading in the NICU, they can use the bullet points on the bookmark for a reminder of how to care for your baby and themselves.
7. Child head support - Often, car seats are too big for pre-term baby’s heads so extra support around the head is required. I was able to sew 60 head supports for each car seat.
The silver award is the second highest honor in girl scouts and I wanted to dedicate my time to supporting pre-term babies. I want to thank and appreciate all the people in my community and my sponsors who helped donate toward this project, including my mom, dad and sister, grandparents, my aunts, uncles and cousins, my troop leader, the NICU Department at Penrose St. Francis, Dr. Brown’s bottles, Lowes, Hobby Lobby, and Wal-Mart. This project has also made me realize I want to be a NICU nurse when I grow up and continue to provide support to pre-term babies and give back the quality care I was provided as a preemie.
~ Taylor J. Girl Scouts of Colorado
Now, how sweet is that? Kind, compassionate, thoughtful and generous.
Digging deeper, I asked Taylor & her mom, Laura, to answer a few questions for us.
1. How much did you weigh when you were born, and what kinds of interventions were needed before you could go home (aside from the oxygen)? Feeding tube? Incubator?
- I weighed 4 lbs 13 oz. and was 5 weeks early. I was fed by a feeding tube and was in an incubator for the first 3 weeks. I was on oxygen for the first 4 months of my life, due to living at high altitude. I also had to spend time ‘under the bilirubin lights’ for care for jaundice.
2. Have you ever had more sickness, or a harder time in any way, than your non-preemie friends?
- I play a lot of sports and sometimes need an inhaler to help with breathing, but other than that I am a completely healthy 12 year old girl.
3. Do you ever feel that being a preemie made you stronger and gives you an advantage over non-preemies?
- Yes, because I can learn from my experience and gain more sensitivity toward children with special needs. I also learned how strong I am even as an infant because I was able to fight through being a preemie.
4. Have you gotten any feedback from parents and/or staff about how much they love the kits you donated?
- Yes, the nurse at the NICU said all the parents were very grateful and liked the education kits. They were able to gain more knowledge and it helped them during that tough time.
5. For mom (Laura): Do you have any words of advice for parents who feel scared about their preemie, who feel sad about having to leave their baby in the hospital when they would rather take their healthy baby home?
- It was extremely difficult to be ‘the parent’ who didn’t follow the traditional birth of a quick overnight stay and then the homecoming with your new child and being able to share the joys with family, friends and neighbors. Immediately after birth she had to be resuscitated and looking back I think I was so overwhelmed with joy of the birth, I wasn’t really grasping her condition or the days and weeks that were in front of us. Many of our immediate family members were not allowed into see Taylor who was isolated to a smaller, darker room. I wasn’t allowed to hold my own child for the first 5 days. As a parent, and I am sure these are common feeling with all NICU parents, I struggled most with leaving at night – feelings on abandoning your helpless ill child. I kept a photo of Taylor by my bed at home and woke up many nights prayerful and with much anxiety that I would not get a call that her condition had changed. The best advice I can provide is with every challenge faced there is an opportunity for growth. I used this experience as a growing opportunity for me as a parent and person on the value of life. Life is a precious gift. We are very blessed to be Taylor’s parents and value the lessons she brings into our lives. We choose as parents to never forget those early days and the miracle child which continues to bless us daily.
Thanks, Taylor and Laura, for sharing your story, and for your generosity towards other NICU families. You are an inspiration!