Rebecca and James Michael were expecting their second child in early November. But baby Emma could only wait until July 11, when she was born at one day over 23 weeks’ gestation, weighing a mere 1 pound 6 ounces.
While The Birthplace care team at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview stayed with Becca, neonatologists immediately brought Emma to the adjacent University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and James followed. He got a closer look at his tiny new daughter, but couldn’t shake a sinking feeling in his stomach.
“All he would really say about her was that she was really little,” Becca recalls. “He didn’t want me to know anything about what she looked like or anything because he didn’t think it would go well.”
Becca saw Emma up close for the first time a few hours later. “You can’t really fathom how small she would be,” she says. “We knew she was going to be there for a really long time.”
And she was—133 days. In the NICU Emma needed a ventilator to breathe for six weeks. She also was treated for a blood infection, irregular blood sugar levels, and retinopathy of prematurity, among other issues. By the time the Michaels took Emma home shortly before Thanksgiving, she was still on oxygen and needed two shots daily to get rid of a blood clot that had formed above her heart, in addition to five other medications they mixed into her milk.
Overwhelming? Definitely. But thanks to the care and training they received through the NICU Follow-Up Clinic, the Michaels felt supported and prepared for the future.
The NICU Follow-Up Clinic serves as a resource for parents as their babies come home and helps to ensure the long-term well-being of these babies. The clinic’s staff—made up of neonatal intensive care physicians who staff the NICU, nurse practitioners, a child psychologist, and an occupational therapist—tracks developmental milestones and connects families with additional services as needed.
“It’s nice that when you leave the NICU, you don’t just get thrown out into the world,” says Becca.