Challenges and Triumphs: Keeping the Gabriel Family Close During a NICU Stay

Dec 28, 2023 | Patient Stories

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Bringing a child into the world is filled with joy, excitement and anticipation. For Kristen and Michael Gabriel, their journey through all maternity took an unexpected turn when complications arose during Kristen’s pregnancy.

The Gabriels share about the challenges they faced, the resilience they discovered and the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with a baby staying in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Tripp was born just before 26 weeks’ gestation and stayed 174 days in our Level III Surgical NICU at Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital. His parents were able to stay close in the Ronald McDonald Family Room. The free resource offered the family a homelike setting and met their practical needs – a room and bathroom steps away from their newborn in the NICU.

The family room, operated by the Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Louisiana through a partnership with Our Lady of Lourdes Foundation and Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital, helps with financial, physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

The Unexpected Twist

Kristen noticed changes in her baby’s movements during the 25th week of her pregnancy. Concerned due to a previous pregnancy loss, she embarked on a late-night mission to stimulate her baby’s activity, ultimately leading them to our hospital.

An ultrasound revealed something was amiss. The baby’s distress signaled an emergency, and the healthcare team swiftly moved into action. Tripp’s heartbeat fluctuated, and a decision was made to perform an emergency C-section. With each passing moment, the urgency increased, highlighting the fragility of life.

The Miracle of Life

Tripp entered the world earlier than expected, facing critical challenges from the start. He had endured weeks without proper nutrition due to a blood clot in the umbilical cord. Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital team’s quick thinking and intervention were crucial, saving his life and offering hope to his parents.

The transition from expecting a baby to having one in the NICU was abrupt, leaving the new parents in a world they never anticipated. Kristen shares the initial fear and uncertainty of navigating a space filled with unknown faces, each contributing to their baby’s care.

As time passed, the Gabriels discovered a support system within our NICU team, forming bonds that eased the emotional burden.

The NICU journey is far from easy, and Kristen and Michael experienced the toll of rotating team members, which ultimately became a lesson in adaptability. They found comfort in the consistency of the care Tripp received.

Going Home is Bittersweet

Leaving the NICU was a milestone, but it was a bittersweet goodbye as the family left behind the NICU team who had become an integral part of their lives. The team provided not only medical care but also emotional support during Tripp’s stay.

Despite the unexpected twists and turns, the Gabriel family is grateful for the life they now hold in their arms. Their NICU experience, including its challenges, became a chapter in their lives showcasing the power of hope, love and the unwavering dedication of our NICU team.

We hope your family never needs a NICU, but it’s good to know what’s available — just in case. Across our health system we offer access to the highest quality family-centered care:

  • Greater Baton Rouge and Northshore: Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital’s Newton & Betsy Thomas Family Center for Newborn & Infant Intensive Care
  • Acadiana: Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital’s Level III Surgical NICU
  • Northeast Louisiana: the region’s only Level III NICU at St. Francis Medical Center
  • Greater Jackson: St. Dominic Hospital’s Level III NICU

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