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Hope gives us strength to face life's struggles

On May 8, my wife, Kristine, was rushed via Rural/Metro Ambulance from our house in Lyndonville to Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo. She was 25 weeks pregnant with our third child.

Once there, it took only five minutes for her to give birth to our daughter Gwendoline. Our baby weighed 2 pounds and was born 15 weeks before her due date. Immediately we were thrust into the life-and-death struggle of premature birth.

As with most serious medical emergencies, especially those involving children, premature birth is a series of peaks and valleys, triumphs and tragedies.

Premature babies, especially those born as early as Gwen, are forced to grow and develop in a synthetic environment. They are remiss of the sanctity of their mother's womb. They are brought into a world they are not yet suited for. Every day brings a new challenge for these babies, their caregivers and their families. Thankfully, with each new day comes strength and renewed hope.

It's not easy seeing your child struggle to live. Gwen was on a respirator for the first month of her life. With the ventilator tube in her mouth, she could not cry out loud.

In the first few weeks she had all kinds of IV lines, wires, tubes, lights and monitors attached to her. After that there was an endless stream of medical procedures, tests and heart-to-heart talks with doctors and nurses. Ever so slowly, we watched her grow.

After 107 days in the hospital, we are fortunate because our story has a happy ending. Or to us -- a happy new beginning. Our 2 pound baby is now almost 9 pounds. Her body, once fragile and limp, is now alive and full of personality. How nice it is to hear her cry.

As we left the Special Care Nursery for the last time, I remember how emotional I felt. For nearly four months the people who worked with our daughter were everything to us. Their dedication to her and our family meant so much. And now Gwen was coming home; ready for a lifetime that began much too soon.

After a heartfelt goodbye we gave the nurses a thank you card that played Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" when you opened it. That sums up our view of the nurses and doctors in the field of neonatology and specifically those working in the Special Care Nursery at Sisters.

There are very few people in this world whom I hold in higher regard than them. Our little girl grew in their arms and when we left, they went and embraced the next premature baby and started the process all over again.

A couple of days before we took Gwen home, I saw a new dad looking at his tiny baby boy just hours after his birth. I knew that look. It's what happens when you watch your child struggle and fight and you don't know what to do.

I went up to him and shook his hand and congratulated him. With a fatherly sense of pride, he introduced me to his son, who weighed only 1 pound 6 ounces.

This dad was scared and upset. He and his wife had been thrust into the world of premature birth, just like us. After talking to him for a few minutes and wishing him the best, I realized something. At that moment, I had passed along a gift to him that I received from my little girl and our experience. It was the gift of hope. I am sure he felt it. I hope he will pass it on when the time comes.

Matthew Ingro, a third-grade teacher who lives in Lyndonville, shares the story of his daughter's premature birth.

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