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home : opinion : opinion November 20, 2017

9/5/2017 7:00:00 AM
When Reality Hits Home

Angie Towery
Staff Writer

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness month and also Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Awareness.

Both are things that touch deep for me. November 17, 2001, I began having preterm labor - this terrified me. I was a first time mom-to-be and felt little to no contractions. I have a high tolerance to pain so my failure to recognize the signs put me at extreme high risk.

I was hospitalized a couple different times but the last admittance turned to be a stay of more than three weeks. I did everything to ensure my pregnancy was a healthy pregnancy for both, my baby and me, I never really expected it to go less than perfect so when all this happened, it was terrifying.

Wendy Peeler - Hickory Christmas

Christmas Day, I was being transferred to a sister hospital where I would unknowingly become a resident patient which would make my baby the same. I had no idea what this meant, but experiencing that reality, I do recommend parents who are at risk for a preemie to educate yourself as much as possible and take steps to secure measures as you want them to be. It isn't fair to be pushed for important decisions to be carried out someone else's way.

My son came at 31 weeks gestational age. Just hours before his birth, the doctors shared a lot of devastating news per amniocentesis (none of this information was true). My baby weighed 5-lbs. 9-oz. and came out crying.

Two days later, we received the news that this tiny baby had a baseball size tumor and was 99.9% Hepatoblastoma Cancer. At a week old, he underwent surgery for a biopsy which by the grace of God was benign. Although I had the maternal instinct that this would not be the destiny for my child, it was still the longest five days. My heart aches for parents and children affected by the realization of pediatric cancer.

Preemies don't just get discharged from the NICU; for years, they have to have vision screenings, milestone tests, parents are warned they may be behind their peers, there are so many things people have no education about when it comes to these warriors.

The hardest thing as a new mom is not being able to hold your baby before they have been taken for assessment.... and coming home without part of you. After 7.5 weeks, those 2 a.m. feedings and lack of sleep were dreams come true for me. (I actually got more sleep once that bundle of joy was home). I am blessed to be sharing a story of triumph, some don't have that. I feel bad to have some of the thoughts I have about how things should have been better, but I am the advocate for my child and no one knows 100% of the struggles of another.

I am happy to know that parents have more privacy with their little ones in NICUs now and I encourage you if you know someone who is going through this, reach out, buy them a candy bar, offer to do their laundry, get a gas card, pay for a nights stay at a nearby hotel, ask how they are - the smallest gestures can mean so much.

Fifteen years later, my son is a smart and handsome young man, he has strong vision, he is active and I am a proud mom.

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