I had a healthy pregnancy. Every check-up was routine and every indication was good. I planned to have my baby at UVA, not because I work here and not because another hospital wouldn’t happily deliver my baby. I chose UVA just in case something went wrong. In case I needed the NICU team.
Not all hospitals have neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Not all hospitals have teams of specialists devoted to caring for the sickest of the sick. Expert doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, social workers, lactation consultants and more — all focused on the tiniest, most vulnerable humans. UVA does.
I chose UVA just in case something went wrong, and I am thankful I did.
At the time of delivery, my body didn’t respond normally to the medicine I was given to stop my contractions. As the doctor was trying to get my baby out during the C-section, my body was still contracting.
Because of this complication, I was later told it took seven minutes to get him out — and there was no way to know how long he went without oxygen during that time.
The care team diagnosed my son, Aiden David Sweeney, with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which is a lack of oxygen affecting blood flow to the brain that affects about 2-3 out of every 1,000 babies born. Luckily for us, following 72 hours of cooling, constant monitoring and days of recovery, he never showed signs of seizure or any other abnormalities.
Patient and Family-Centered Care
Aiden wasn’t a preemie. He was born full term, and he spent 10 days in the NICU at UVA. An expert team of doctors, devoted nurses, professional staff and generous volunteers tended to him (and us) around the clock.
The team included my husband and me when discussing my son’s care plan for the day. His nurses spent significant time answering our questions, calming our fears and educating us on how we could help care for him. They were quick to show us how to safely do all the normal things new parents do, like holding him, changing diapers and breastfeeding.
Aiden is now a happy, perfectly healthy 3-year-old, and I still cannot stop telling everyone how incredible the NICU team is. Don’t believe me? Just watch them for yourself.