Community generosity helps NICU family celebrate milestones
On June 22, Mariah Caro and her husband Cecil rushed to the emergency department of their local Centralia hospital at 4am. Mariah was six months pregnant at the time and expecting the couple’s first child.
“When it was all happening, I didn’t even know I was having contractions,” Mariah says. “I woke up for work and realized I had been bleeding. I called the doctor and they told me to come in immediately.”
Doctors instantly realized that something was seriously wrong. Mariah had developed an infection in her placenta that was forcing her into premature labor. Mariah and Cecil welcomed their son, William, that same morning — 15 weeks early.
“What was supposed to be just another day of work, another Saturday, another weekend, was the day we met our son,” Mariah says. “He weighed less than two pounds, his delicate skin was translucent and his eyes were still fused shut. To us, he was perfect.”
Because of his fragile state as a micro preemie, the MultiCare Tacoma General Neonatal Transport Team was contacted to take William directly to the Tacoma General Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) following his birth.
Tacoma General is the only hospital in South Puget Sound with a level IV NICU, providing the highest level of care possible for critically ill infants. The Tacoma General NICU is nationally accredited in neonatal transport services and provides transport for more than 700 premature infants each year.
“It was about 36 hours before we saw him again,” Mariah says. “So we really didn’t know much about those 36 hours, which was hard. I do know that they brought William in his incubator into my hospital room in Centralia, so I could meet him before he was transported. I only saw him for about two minutes before the transport team had to take him.”
When William arrived at Tacoma General, he needed immediate specialized care. His lungs were particularly weak. For the first couple months of his stay, he required a ventilator to breathe. As part of his care, William received visits from occupational, speech and physical therapists and benefited from music therapy, a service funded through community donations that helps premature babies process sound and physical touch.
“For micro preemies, they can have sensory overload. William was like that in the beginning,” Mariah says. “He would get mad every time he was disturbed. Both music therapy and physical therapy really helped him with that.”
Traveling back and forth from Centralia to Tacoma to spend time with William quickly became impossible for the Knight family, so they found a temporary new home at Tree House: A Place for Families. Tree House is a donor-supported program that offers private spaces for families to rest, do laundry, make a meal and more — all just steps from their loved one in the hospital. Thanks to support from the community, these services are offered at little to no cost to every family.
“On a good day, it takes us an hour and 10 minutes to get to Tacoma General from our home,” Mariah says. “Tree House has allowed us to stay close to our son and be there for him, even when we felt like there was nothing we could do. We could just be there.”
Being present gave Mariah the ability to celebrate precious milestones in William’s progress.
“There are all of these milestones that don’t make the time less scary, but they make the moments worth it,” Mariah says. “For instance, babies open their eyes for the first time in the womb. William opened his exactly one week after he was born, and we got to see that. When he was finally off the ventilator, we got to hear him cry for the first time. That was one of our favorite moments.”
On October 19, 119 days after he was born and two weeks after his original due date, William graduated from the NICU. Although he will continue to need specialized care as he grows, his family is happy to finally be able to bring him home.
“I’m most excited to just be home and be a mom,” Mariah says. “We’ve already seen so much of his personality. I’m excited to get to know him outside of the hospital.”
“You never know when you are going to need something like this,” Mariah says. “You don’t want to need it, but if you ever do, you are forever grateful.”
Contributions from the community make programs and services like the Tacoma General NICU, Tree House and neonatal music therapy available to help families heal faster. You can help families like the Knights by making a donation today.
About The Author
Kortney Scroger is a communication specialist for the MultiCare Foundations. She writes stories that connect readers to the impact of giving. You can reach her at [email protected].More stories by this author