THE RYSAK FAMILY
My husband and I were so excited to become pregnant with our first child. I was 27 years old, and in perfect health. The beginning of my pregnancy was very normal…I took all the right vitamins, ate all the right foods, and saw the doctor at all the right times. My prenatal care was outstanding, and I took excellent care of myself. None of that mattered, though, when my water broke at 27 weeks, 2 days. After being rushed to the hospital, our son Tobin was delivered by emergency C-section, three full months too early. He weighed less than three pounds, and could fit in the palm of my hand. That is, if I had been allowed to hold him…
There is nothing that can prepare you for the experience of the NICU. The first time I saw my son he was in an incubator in the NICU, with so many wires and sensors, IV’s and tubes that my mind could not process that this was my baby. There is no way to explain the feeling of helplessness that comes from knowing there is nothing you can do but wait and watch.
Even though Tobin was born 13 weeks too early, he was actually relatively healthy. The doctors told us he was strong, and that we needed to keep up hope. But hope can be challenging for a NICU family, and the experience can only be described as a roller coaster ride. But that expression simply cannot relay the day to day highs and lows a family experiences throughout their NICU journey. Sadly, our rollercoaster ride ended with a low. Tobin lost his life at 3 ½ weeks old. We did not understand how this could happen to us, and frankly, neither could our doctors.
What my doctors were able to offer me, thanks to the March of Dimes, was the possibility of a different outcome though some relatively new advances. When I became pregnant again the following year, my doctors made it their mission to see a healthy baby at the end. I was labeled as high-risk and was very carefully monitored. But even with all this care, when I went into labor at 34 weeks, all I could think was, “Not again...”
This time, though, we were ready. I was given surfactant therapy, which the March of Dimes grantees helped develop, while I was in labor to try to speed the development of the baby’s lungs. My son Connor was born 6 weeks early, weighing 5 lbs14 oz. Connor spent 6 days in the NICU, but was never on a ventilator and was never intubated.
Connor is now a beautiful, healthy, 14-year old ice hockey player. Aside from mild asthma, and a smaller stature that I keep telling him the women will love when he is older, he is in perfect health. Aside from the possibility of physical challenges, preemies also face the potential of mental challenges as a result of being born too early. We watched Connor’s milestones very closely as he has grown up, and we consider ourselves very lucky that he is not only on target for his age, but is well ahead of his class. In fact, we often say he is too smart for his own good!
I still stand here before you though as a parent without answers. We don’t know what caused my early deliveries in either case, and don’t know how they could have been prevented. I find this unacceptable in an age of such miraculous science and medicine. We did everything right, and we still went through one of the worse losses possible…that of a child. Please, understand that your support of the March of Dimes WILL lead to answers. I am fully confident that the March of Dimes research will, sooner than later, figure out what causes pre-term delivery in otherwise healthy mothers, and more importantly, how to stop it100% of the time. We need to continue to support their mission and give the world more Connors. Because a future any other way is simply unimaginable.