By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, firstname.lastname@example.org
As far as Luisa Saucedo is concerned, the nurses gathered around her daughter’s hospital bed are angels – Amelie’s angels.
They are smitten with the little girl who arrived at Riley Hospital for Children on Feb. 7 weighing just 1 pound, 13 ounces. Today, Amelie is a robust 11 pounds with pudgy cheeks and bright eyes – when she’s awake.
Andrea Delmage and Erin Bevis, her primary nurses on day shift in the NICU, woke her up a little early Monday morning to give her a bath and make sure she was dressed in the adorable outfit her mom brought in for her first photo shoot.
Amelie yawns and stretches as the nurses prop her up for photos.
“She’s so cute,” the nurses say nearly in unison. “Can you wake up? Can you smile for us?”
COVID, THEN A COMPLICATION
Nearly 6 months old now, Amelie has been at Riley since the day after she was born 15 weeks prematurely in South Bend, Indiana. She was transported to Riley within hours, arriving in the middle of the night.
For Saucedo, a native of Bolivia, South America, it was a whirlwind. She had been visiting family in northern Indiana for the holidays and planned to return to Bolivia on Jan. 9. But then she tested positive for COVID-19. And while she didn’t get seriously ill, she had to rebook her flight home for Feb. 2.
That’s when things got even dicier.
The first-time mom suffered a placental abruption, a serious complication in pregnancy that occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterus, depriving the baby of oxygen and nutrients.
“She decided to be born,” Saucedo says, speaking in English despite not knowing much of the language when she first arrived at Riley.
Her daughter’s care team, which includes nurse practitioner Katelyn Redman, recall that they spoke to Saucedo through a translator in the first several weeks. Now, the new mom and her own mom, who are tag-teaming Amelie’s care, are able to communicate pretty well in English.
Back home in Bolivia is Saucedo’s fiancé and Amelie’s father, Cicero Polesso, who has not yet been able to meet his baby girl in person. He has had to make do with video calls and pictures.
Saucedo is thankful that her mother – Amelie’s abuela – is with her at Riley; the two have been staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
“MY MIRACLE BABY”
The English language is not the only thing they have absorbed while at Riley. It’s evident when you walk into the room how closely they have bonded with the nurses.
While Delmage and Bevis love on Amelie, urging her to smile for the camera, Saucedo remembers how she felt when she first arrived.
“At first I was afraid, but I also was blessed that I got to meet wonderful people,” she said. “I call them angels. And she is my miracle baby. I am so grateful with everyone here at Riley Hospital. We give thanks to God every day for sending me all these people.”
As a preemie, Amelie had the usual challenges of underdeveloped lungs and a heart condition that required surgery, but she has sailed through every challenge, Redman said, including a hole in her esophagus that healed in time.
“Every hiccup we’ve had, she just moves on. We’ve just been growing her and getting her lungs to heal. She has come a long way,” the nurse practitioner said. “And mom has been here every day, giving her milk. Born 15 weeks early and she is going to go home breastfeeding and bottle feeding probably in the next couple of weeks.”
HARD TO SAY GOODBYE
The bond between mother and baby is strong, the nurses say, and it makes all the difference. While they see lots of babies, Amelie stole their heart early on.
“We just fell in love with her,” Delmage said. “And them,” she said, nodding to Saucedo and her mom. “We joke all the time that we’re going back to Bolivia with them.”
It’s not often that the family of a patient starts to feel like your own family, Bevis acknowledged.
Redman said the hope is that Amelie is breastfeeding and bottle feeding well before she leaves with her mom and abuela on the 12-hour flight home.
“If she’s not quite there and we think it will take a little longer as some premature babies need, then we can talk about going home with some other feeding options, but we want to give her some time to show us what she can do.”
So while the goal is to get Amelie home, the thought of the family leaving as soon as next month tugs at everyone’s heartstrings just a little.
“It will be hard to leave this place,” Saucedo said. “I’m happy and excited because we are going home, but I am going to miss you,” she told the nurses. “I will keep them in my heart and hope someday my baby would meet them again.”
Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, email@example.com