Cora's in Charge: More Than 70 Days in the Genesis NICU
It's Day 73 for little Cora Taylor, who has been in the Genesis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit since her premature birth on Feb. 20.
Sleeping in her crib, she is attached to a monitor that sounds alerts when her heart rate drops or her breathing pauses during sleep, a condition called apnea of prematurity. After so many days spent at Cora's bedside, parents Brad and Joanie Taylor of Camanche, Iowa, have become attuned to the live-saving sounds of the medical technology.
They know all too well that a certain beep or buzz could signal a change in Cora's condition.
For a baby born 10 weeks early and weighing only 3 lbs. 13 oz., Cora still controls the destiny of her parents' days. She's set to go home soon as long as she doesn't have episodes of bradycardia, a slowed heart rate. This could lengthen her stay a few more days. Her parents contain their excitement about taking her home, knowing a small setback could delay her discharge.
That's the reality of prematurity, they have come to learn.
"Cora's always in charge...She's been in charge since the day she was born," her father smiles. "We're looking to her to tell us when it's time to come home. After her birth, the doctors warned us to expect her progress to be like a rollercoaster, with ups and then downs. They were right."
In her short but eventful life, Cora has graduated from an incubator to a crib. She has been progressively weaned from breathing assistance, first using a ventilator, then a continuous positive airway pressure machine, and then a nose cannula. Cora now breathes and eats on her own, finally with no wires or tubes attached to her face.
Colorful notes from her nurses hang above her crib, announcing her progress over the weeks. "I'm 4 pounds today" ... "I'm 5 pounds today" ... then 6 pounds ... then 7 pounds. Ten weeks since her birthday, she weighs 7 lbs. 11 oz.—the size of many full-term babies at birth. These are hopeful signs it will soon be time to come home, wearing an apnea monitor.
Care from U of I Neonatologists
Throughout their ordeal, Cora's parents have felt reassured that three neonatologists from the nationally renowned University of Iowa Children's Hospital work onsite at the Genesis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Davenport. Since 2006, this partnership between Genesis and U of I has elevated neonatal care in the Quad Cities region and enabled more sick and premature babies to stay closer to home.
"Never did we think something like this would happen," says Joanie, whose voice occasionally chokes with tears when she recalls her daughter's journey.
Brad adds. "I didn't know what a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was before this happened, but I'm glad one was at Genesis."
Both will always be grateful to the supportive team of neonatologists, nurses, therapists and other staff who have cared for Cora over three months.
"They really care about Cora and are always popping in to check on her—not just because it's their job but because they want to know how she's doing," Joanie says. "They ask me how I'm doing and if I need anything, too."
On this afternoon, Cora sleeps in her crib, oblivious to the fact that Mom, Dad and older brothers Ethan, 11, and Rece, 8, are camped out in her room. Most nights, Joanie and Brad take turns staying overnight in the NICU to be close to Cora.
Everyday life has had to go on, filled with hours of commuting, numerous calls to the NICU, many nights spent at the hospital and a diet of too much take-out food. Fatigue has become the norm for Brad and Joanie.
"Ten weeks might not sound like a long time, but Cora was born during one of the coldest weeks of winter," her father says. "Now, it's spring. We've seen a lot of babies come to the NICU and get to go home, but we're still here. If it wasn't for the NICU staff we've gotten to know, it would have been much harder to spend so many hours in this room."
The weekend before Cora's early birth, the focus was on getting her crib put together. Even though Joanie's due date was three months away, her nesting instincts had kicked in. That week, while teaching at DeWitt's Ekstrand Elementary, she felt progressive pain and her belly tighten. She was rushed to Genesis Medical Center, DeWitt, where she learned she was in early labor.
About 42 hours later, despite medical efforts to give Cora more time in the womb, she was delivered by Cesarean section at the Genesis BirthCenter in Davenport.
Joanie remembers the alarm she felt when, while still a patient at the BirthCenter, she went to visit Cora two floors away in the NICU. It was nighttime, but a neonatologist was still there monitoring her daughter's welfare. The realization hit: Her daughter's condition was serious; she was grateful for such highly specialized care so close to home.
Joanie has kept a journal of Cora's NICU stay, filled with accounts of joyful days and worrisome days. Among the happy times has been giving Cora "kangaroo care" -- skin-to-skin contact between baby and parent to help with bonding. Amid the NICU's high-tech environment, kangaroo care brings health benefits to babies like helping to maintain their body warmth and regulate heart and breathing rates.
"We're excited to take Cora home, but it will be difficult to leave all the people we've come to know in the NICU. They've been with us throughout this ordeal, and we'll never forget them, "Joanie says. "I wouldn't have a baby anywhere else but Genesis."