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Two Generations of NICU Graduates

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Laura Zabriskie

April 13, 2018
Little Liam was born at GBMC four weeks early, weighing six pounds. He was immediately transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) because his lungs had filled with fluid and he was unable to maintain his body temperature or blood sugar. By the next morning, he had dropped to five pounds, eight ounces. The two days that Liam spent in the NICU felt like an eternity to his parents, Kurt and Gretchen.
Liam in the NICU
Liam was Gretchen's third child, but this pregnancy was different from the others. She had miscarried twice since her last daughter was born, and every little thing filled her with anxiety. "I was constantly on edge," she said. When she learned that Liam was going to the NICU, she was devastated. In her mind, babies only went there if they had birth defects or were extremely underweight; she was incredibly concerned about her newborn’s condition. It was her mother who gave her perspective.

Thirty-four years earlier, Gretchen had also been admitted to GBMC’s NICU — she, too, was born early and had weighed only four pounds. In 1983, the NICU was a very different place than it is today. There was significantly less technology and fewer products were available for preemies. There weren't diapers small enough for Gretchen, so her nurses had to improvise. She ended up wearing surgical masks until she was big enough to fit into infant diapers. Her mother kept reminding her "if you can make it, Liam can make it, too."

Liam was actually one of the biggest babies in the unit. At six pounds, he was given the nickname "Chunker" by his nurses — a name that caught on in the rest of the unit. Families in the NICU often form close bonds over their shared experiences. Gretchen found this to be true even in the short time Liam was there.

Thanks to his medical team, Liam's lungs are now free of fluid and he is at home with his family, growing stronger every day. The support from her family, the NICU team, and the other families got her through what was a frightening experience. "Everyone was truly amazing," she said, "I'm extremely grateful to the nurses and staff."
Kurt and Gretchen plan to bring Liam to the Father's Day 5K on June 17, held every year to raise funds for the NICU. They look forward to reuniting with the staff members who cared for him when he was so vulnerable. This year’s Father’s Day 5K is especially important because the funds are going towards a new NICU! One of the most exciting things about the new space is that each room will feature a Kangaroo Chair. These chairs, designed specifically for GBMC’s NICU, promote skin-to-skin contact and early breastfeeding, both of which are critical to improving development. The chair’s design was based on input from those who know best — NICU parents and nurses! We hope to see you at this incredible event! Click here to register!

Liam Blinke

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