NICU Success Story – The Zeinner Family

NICU Alex WillElaine Zeinner and her husband, Joe, were ecstatic to learn that they were expecting twins, due April 13, 2011. After two years of fertility treatments, including two rounds of IVF with Dr. Michael Thomas of UC Center for Reproductive Health, they were thrilled that they would finally have the family they had been dreaming and hoping for. But, like their path to pregnancy, things didn’t go according to plan.

At 26 weeks, Elaine began experiencing what she thought was just Braxton-Hicks contractions, or false labor. After finally calling her doctor and explaining her symptoms, she was told to immediately go to the local hospital where her doctor practiced. At first, the staff there believed they stopped her pre-term labor, but after 24 hours, her contractions intensified and Elaine was transferred to UCMC via ambulance.  Once at UCMC, the maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialists worked around the clock for 24 hours, and were finally able to stop her labor.

Elaine spent the next three weeks on bed rest at UCMC, bouncing back and forth between labor and delivery and the antepartum wing as she continued to go into labor, and the MFM doctors and nurses worked to stop her contractions.  At 29 weeks, there wasn’t anything left for the doctors to try, and Elaine and Joe welcomed Alex and Will into the world – 11 weeks early. Alex weighed 3 lbs, 2 oz, and Will weighed 3 lbs, 3 oz – “big” for 29 weekers.

“I will never forget the moment I was wheeled into a labor and delivery room that was full of people who looked worried – my husband, my mom, nurses and doctors. A flurry of work began immediately. And, that work didn’t slow down until I finally gave birth three weeks later,” said Elaine.

“The difference between a baby born at 26 weeks and 29 weeks is huge. A 26 weeker has higher risks for just about everything – mortality, intubation, bleeding of the brain, long-term developmental issues. While a child born at 29 weeks isn’t out of the woods by any means, his chances are improved,” said Ron Jaekle, MD, the maternal-fetal medicine attending physician who oversaw Elaine’s care when she was admitted.

“I am still amazed at the research and studies the doctors constantly referenced,” said Joe. “The doctors were able to anticipate what may happen next, and know the best course of treatment because of the studies and research THEY had conducted and written. When it came to my wife, and my children, I wanted the doctors who ‘wrote the book’ on pre-term labor. That’s what we got at UCMC.”

After their much-earlier-than anticipated birthday on January 29, 2011, Alex and Will spent the next 10 weeks in the NICU learning how to breathe, eat and keep themselves warm – all things parents take for granted that their babies will be able to do at birth. The boys first struggled to come off the bubble CPAP (one of UCMC’s best tools to support respiratory distress in preterm babies), and then worked for a long-time to keep their lungs open enough on their own without a high-flow nasal cannula. Elaine, Joe, and the OT/PT staff worked for weeks with Alex and Will to teach them how to eat from a bottle without the babies heart rates and oxygen saturation levels dropping drastically.

The journey in the NICU is long, bumpy, anxious, scary, nerve-wrecking and seems never-ending. It was the nurses, respiratory therapists, OT/PT and doctors that made Alex, Will, Joe and Elaine’s journey easier.

“UCMC has the best research and most knowledge doctors, but even more importantly, they have the most caring and skilled staff. At so many times during our NICU experience, I was the one who needed support. Our primary nurses, Karen and Tracy, reassured and encouraged me and my husband, while providing the care I couldn’t to my babies,” Elaine said. “Even if another hospital happened to have access to the cutting-edge, latest and greatest research and technology that UCMC does, they don’t have the Karens, Tracys, and some many other people that helped Alex and Will become the healthy boys they are today – and helped keep me sane during an extremely emotional time.”

Now, because of the care Alex and Will received at UCMC’s NICU, they are doing all the things little boys love to do – running, jumping, playing with cars, super heroes and any other toy, reading books and playing with their baby brother (born at 37 weeks!). They have had no serious, lasting complications that would ever indicate their early, bumpy start to life.  Joe and Elaine are extremely proud of their boys and are thankful each and every day for the care they received at UCMC at the hands of our extraordinary NICU team.

And now, thanks to a special group of “friends,” Elaine and Joe can finally give back in the way they want and help provide support to other parents experiencing the ups and downs of the NICU.

“I was so excited to be asked to be part of The Friends of Tiny Hearts at UCMC to help raise money and awareness for the NICU,” said Elaine. “My husband and I have longed talked about how we could help the NICU after all they did for us. As a board member, I want to help other moms, and dads, during their NICU experience, and after they get to take their precious preemie babies home.”

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