Mom thankful for a healthy baby and Texas Health
August in North Texas can be sweltering to say the least, so Mariela Castillo didn’t think much of it when she began feeling ill the day of her baby shower. It was August 1, 2015, and the mom-to-be was 31 weeks pregnant with her first child. She continued to blame the temperature for feeling under the weather until she awoke the next morning with a sharp, shooting pain in her right side and shoulder.
Upon calling the closest hospital in Weatherford, Mariela was instructed to make the 45-minute trip to get checked out. When she arrived, her blood pressure was extremely high but hospital staff members couldn’t pinpoint why. What they did determine was that Mariela needed to be transported to a hospital with an advanced Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She was CareFlighted to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. Not long after arrival, the baby’s heart rate began to drop and Mariela found herself being prepped for an emergency cesarean delivery.
Baby Marcus was born on August 2, weighing in at a mere 3 pounds and 2.8 ounces. Mariela wouldn’t see her son until the next evening and she wouldn’t get to hold him for six long days.
“Once he was delivered, the doctors noticed I was bleeding internally,” she said. “I was rushed into surgery with a ruptured hematoma on my liver. This was what was causing my pain the night before. During the two-hour surgery to fix the rupture, they also discovered that I had HELLP Syndrome. The doctors explained that this is a kind of preeclampsia. No one knew what was going on when I was rushed away. Later, when I couldn’t keep food down I had to have an NG tube inserted through my nose into my stomach. This happened on my 29th birthday. It was a scary time for my family.”
Although Mariela recovered and was released within the week, Marcus was just beginning his stay in the hospital. Due to his prematurity, the newborn needed some time to grow, learn how to breathe on his own and eat. Mariela and her partner Ryan were then faced with finding ongoing accommodations some two hours from their home. Members of the NICU staff helped connect them with Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth within walking distance to the hospital.
The home-away-from-home allowed Mariela to go on what she described as “autopilot”. She would stay with Marcus during the day for feeding time and bonding, and return to the Ronald McDonald House at night to rest up and take advantage of meals provided by the facility. Although Mariela found it to be too stressful to successfully breastfeed with all of the wires attached to her son, she tried to develop a routine of pumping every three hours ― as if she were at home doing it with Marcus in the next room.
The nurses in the NICU coached her and Ryan on how to kangaroo care with their baby, bathe and swaddle him, and take his temperature. Finally, after 73 days in the NICU, Marcus and his parents were ready to make the trip home. It was October 14, 12 days after Mariela’s expected due date.
“The nurses were what made our hospital stay easier,” Mariela said. “I was so nervous bringing Marcus home but I felt like I had a lot of practice and help from them. I’m especially thankful for the nurse who was determined to have me meet my precious baby the night after he was born. She put me in a wheelchair and took me to the NICU so I could see him. The nurses always knew what to say and understood the emotions I was having. I guess they were moms, too.”
Marcus is now a thriving toddler with no lingering health concerns. His mom offered this advice to other families facing a long NICU stay: “Some days are better than others, but try to stay positive. The NICU is exactly where the baby needs to be. Be patient, be grateful and try to make the most out of your NICU time. Get involved with the March of Dimes. It is a tremendous organization focused on moms and babies.”