Preemies, Son Inspire Mom to Help the Cause

Joanna, 34, has been a Neonatal Intensive Care nurse for 13 years, with eight of those years spent working in the NICU at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. During her time in the NICU, Joanna has seen her share of premature infants struggle and knows, firsthand, the anguish a family can go through when the effort doesn’t end well.deangelophoto

In 2001, Joanna lost her first child at 20-weeks gestation due to preterm labor caused by an incompetent cervix. After the traumatic experience, she became active with the March of Dimes―raising money for research by participating in the organization’s various walks. A second failed pregnancy in 2006 at 23-weeks gestation left Joanna more determined than ever to make a difference and become a mom.

She stepped up her volunteer work with the March of Dimes, began wearing wrist bands in memory of her two lost babies and became pregnant again in 2009. Now under the watchful eyes of the medical team at Walnut Hill Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates and Brian Rinehart, M.D., a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at North Texas Perinatal Associates and medical director of the Maternal High Risk Program at Texas Health Dallas, Joanna felt optimistic about her pregnancy.

Her physicians were armed with the latest medical advances and were committed to providing as much intervention as necessary to see the pregnancy through to a successful outcome. At 13-gestational weeks, James Richards, M.D., of Walnut Hill OB/GYN placed a cervical cerclage, or suture, into and around Joanna’s cervix to help it remain closed throughout her pregnancy. She received weekly hormone shots of progesterone and was put on Procardia medication in an effort to keep her uterus from prematurely contracting.

The pregnancy progressed well until, at 21 weeks, Dr. Rinehart noticed a substantial change in the length of Joanna’s cervix during her weekly checkup. She was admitted to the High-Risk Obstetrics/Antepartum Unit in the Margot Perot Center for Women and Infants at Texas Health Dallas for strict bed rest. Jonathan “Jack” Anders was born at 27 weeks and 3 days, weighing in at just 2 pounds, 8 ounces.

Baby Jack spent nearly 10 weeks in the hospital’s Level III NICU on CPAP therapy to help him breathe before advancing to a nasal cannula and a two-week stay in the Special Care Nursery. Today, Jack is a thriving four-year-old boy and Joanna is a doting mom who is eternally grateful to the specialists and teams inside Texas Health Dallas that helped her grow her family and look beyond being a NICU nurse.

“It was extremely difficult to go into the NICU and take care of Jack as my own baby instead of going through the routine of a NICU nurse, but the other nurses treated me like a mother rather than their colleague,” Joanna said. “Bonding was also hard because I had my guard up for fear of losing him. I didn’t get a single baby item until he was 34 weeks. I knew all the risks and unfortunate events of having a preterm baby, but everyone helped me get past the anxiety.”

Every year, more than half a million babies are born too soon in the U.S. That’s why the March of Dimes has made it its mission to help moms experience full-term pregnancies and babies start healthy lives. For more information about the NICU at Texas Health Dallas, visit TexasHealth.org/Dallas-Baby or visit MarchofDimes.com.

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