Two Moms, Two High-Risk Deliveries

May 12, 2020

Early arrivals benefit from “golden hour” intervention in DHL’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Despite a rocky start, everything was going according to plan for Velma Saenz during her pregnancy. She had already heard her baby’s heartbeat and seen his sonogram. The excited family had even held a gender reveal. What wasn’t part of the plan? Going into labor at just 26 weeks. 

The Zapata resident will never forget that eventful night in May 2018 when, as luck would have it, much of her support system, including the baby’s father, happened to be out of town. “Once I realized my water broke, I called my mom, who was on a trip out of state, to tell her. She felt helpless being so many hours away,” she says. “I had just seen my OB-GYN that day and everything looked fine so it was the last thing we were expecting.”

Luke is a lively toddler

Miroslaba Perez had a similar experience the previous year. “I was admitted to Doctors Hospital when I was 25 weeks’ pregnant because my water broke,” Perez says. The mother of two teenage boys had previously given birth at full term so going into labor early was a shock. “It was a completely different and frightening experience,” she says.

Once each expectant mother was admitted, the goal was to slow or stop labor as long as possible. Perez was in the hospital for two weeks before giving birth to Ezekiel on July 9, 2017. The new arrival weighed less than 2 pounds. After a few days of bed rest, Saenz delivered Ethan Luke on May 8, 2018. He weighed just 1 pound, 9 ounces at birth.

The first hour of postnatal life for preterm infants like Ezekiel and Ethan (called Luke) is known as the “golden hour.” NICU Program Coordinator Lilly Limas-Macias, RN, BSN, explains that the goal is to provide every needed support within this all-important time frame. “Our NICU team is well-prepared for high-risk deliveries,” she says. “We do several interventions to better the outcomes for extremely-low-birth-weight babies. It takes a whole team effort to accomplish what we do.”

Once babies are settled into the NICU, it presents a new set of challenges for the families. “I had never seen a baby so small,” Perez says. “It was a difficult experience for the whole family.” Saenz agrees. “I live more than an hour away and I had a daughter at home who was waiting for me,” she says. “Every day I would go to see Luke and stay from morning until evening. Then I would go home, sleep and get ready to do it all over again.”

Ezekiel is all smiles

What made it easier for both families? Open communications and absolute confidence in the care their babies were receiving. “Ezekiel received the best care possible from the start,” Perez says. “The nurses were exceptional—they were compassionate, loving and caring.” Saenz echoes that sentiment. “My experience was so good that I can’t even put it into words,” she says. “Everybody was just so wonderful, especially the NICU nurses. They were on a whole other level.” 

Today both boys are thriving. “Ezekiel is a very healthy, happy and active little boy,” Perez says. “He loves to eat and he loves to spend time with his dad and brothers.” Saenz is equally proud of her now-2-year-old Luke. She’s especially excited about the progress he has made in therapy and is also impressed with her growing boy’s appetite. “He’s a big eater who will eat just about anything you give him,” she says with a smile. “He’s really doing awesome.”