There are times in our lives when we need the support of others; we need a Hand to Hold. Today Jackie Price shares her family’s NICU journey and her inspiration for chairing our first ever Baby Shower Luncheon fundraiser, which was presented by The Mrs. in Austin, Texas, and benefited Hand to Hold, a national NICU parent support organization. The sold-out event grossed nearly $100K to support our mission of providing resources for NICU families. We are grateful to our amazing committee of volunteers and additional sponsors Roger Beasley Imports, Austin’s First Steps, H-E-B, Andrea and Dean McWilliams, Seton, Austin Fertility Institute and Vivere Austin Surgery Center, Picket Fences Baby and Maternity,and Texas Fertility Center.
On March 19, 2005, Jackie and Eric Price’s triplets were born prematurely at 26 weeks and three days. Ava was 1 lb. 15 ounces and her identical twin, Faith, was 1 lb. 5 ounces. Their sister Claire was 1 lb. 14 ounces. All of the girls were admitted to the hospitals’ neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after they were born.
Right before the girls were born, Jackie was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was first able to visit the NICU three days after their birth. While she was unable to provide much of their needed care because they were so medically fragile, it was comforting for her to be there at their bedside. Jackie first held Claire when she was about 10 days old. Of the three girls, she was making the most progress.
During that same time Ava was diagnosed with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a condition in which the ductus arteriosus blood vessel that allows blood to go around the baby’s lungs before birth does not close. PDA leads to abnormal blood flow between the aorta and pulmonary artery, two major blood vessels that carry blood from the heart. Once Ava had surgery to repair her ductus arteriosus, her parents could finally hold her for the first time.
It was 42 days before Jackie held Faith for the first time. During that time Jackie would put her hand through the NICU isolette, singing to her so that Faith could smell Jackie and know she was nearby.
Jackie says that the scariest time was when the hospital staff told them Faith wasn’t getting any better and asked them if they should withdraw treatment or conversely step it up and put Faith on post-natal steroids which have a high percentage of long-term brain damage. Jackie and Eric decided to wait and see what would happen.
One of the neonatologists on their team then suggested changing the ventilator and Faith recovered. Her NICU nurse told Jackie she’d never seen a recovery like that in her 25 years of nursing.
Today, all three girls are doing well. They are in the third grade, attending mainstream classes at school. Faith and Ava have overcome retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding eye disorder. They now have great vision. Although they all had asthma in the beginning, today all of the girls’ lungs are fine and there isn’t any scarring.
But, Jackie wants parents of premature infants to know that she has one regret: Jackie wishes that during that trying time, she would have accepted the support and help offered by others. While her girls were in the hospital, fellow preemie mom and church member Kelli Kelley reached out to Jackie, but Jackie didn’t accept the help. “God love her, Kelli never stopped reaching out to me.” Instead, Jackie and her husband depended on one another to get through this trying time.
“I chaired the first-ever Baby Shower Fundraising Luncheon benefitting Hand to Hold because of what I went through,” Jackie says. “I handled it poorly and I want other preemie moms to know that they don’t have to feel lost. Hand to Hold can help them feel hopeful, connected and give them the support I didn’t take. I know if I had accepted that support, then it would have been an easier time for me and my family.”