On December 30, 2007, my husband Rich and I drove to Rush at 2 in the morning because I had a fever of 102. I was not quite 26 weeks pregnant, and I was barely showing. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that we would be parents that day. It was just a fever.
However, it was a fever indicating that I might have a sick baby inside of me. Dr. Patricia Boatwright made the right decision to deliver, and it was confirmed that Samantha was a very sick baby. She had an infection and stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit at Rush for 14 weeks.
The phrase “a deer in headlights” definitely described Rich and me. That parental bond took a very long time to develop for us. Initially we heard “Mom” or “Dad” and our first instinct was to look around for someone else. We also called our daughter “baby” and had to force ourselves to call her Samantha. We enjoyed being around our baby and did everything asked of us while Samantha was in the NICU. But that deep bond just wasn’t there for these first-time parents. Not like now. I realize now how overwhelmed we were.
The one constant was the care Samantha and all of us received from everyone at Rush. I remember my amazement that Dr. Robert Kimura came to my room that first night after my C-section and talked with me for 45 minutes about Samantha’s situation. I even wrote it down in my notes, “45 MINUTES!”
The first time Rich and I visited Samantha’s bedside, Dr. Jean Silvestri sat down with us and listed the top five immediate concerns and drew some pictures to help us understand them. She informed us of the roller coaster we’d be on and put us at ease. (I still have Dr. Silvestri’s paper with the drawings.)
Those two conversations are just small examples of the excellent care our family received in the NICU from the doctors, the nurses, the custodial staff – everyone. All the people there were amazing.
Those days in the hospital were hard. In fact, Samantha’s first three years were hard for us, because there were so many “what ifs.” Those fears were overwhelming. I remember that I couldn’t think about who Samantha would be in the future, because the “what if” made the future too scary.
Life after Samantha turned 3 was easier for us. Maybe we were more at ease with being parents, or maybe it was because we didn’t have weekly therapy anymore. There are still times when the question of “is this a preemie thing or a kid thing” still enters our heads. But we are at ease to know that we have an amazing, healthy daughter.
Today Samantha is an amazing girl. I know it’s typical for a parent to say how great her child is. But, she is amazing. She wakes up happy and ready to take on the day. When things don’t go her way, she can bounce back so easily. She is very funny. She likes to make faces or make up funny voices. She is creative and constantly drawing – and she is pretty good. She is kind. She asks my husband “how was work today, Dad?” Or she will tell a complete stranger in the grocery store, “I like your dress.” We have changed so much because of her. She reminds us of how easy life can be when you have the right attitude.
When we took Samantha home on April 7, 2008, we said the simple words, “thank you.” We were thanking the people at Rush for saving her life and allowing us to take her home. Today, those words need to be in skywriting.
Thank you, Rush, for giving Rich and me the opportunity to know this amazing girl. Thank you for allowing our lives and the lives of so many around us to be filled with joy because of her. We are better people, because you saved the life of a very tiny baby. So, with all of my heart, thank you.
Maria Dimond shared Samantha’s story at the dedication of Rush’s Family Birth Center earlier this year.