Our extended family will celebrate this Christmas by embracing togetherness. We will sing and dance to Spanish holiday music, enjoy traditional Dominican food, unwrap sparkly gifts and have a blast.
Last year, as the holidays approached, I was torn between my children at home and our 8-month-old who had been in the in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s National for her entire life.
On Christmas eve, my daughters, Scarlett, and Nicole, finally got to meet their baby sister for the first time. Her nurses dressed her up and decorated. Music filled her room. Fairy lights twinkled and reflected glistening ornaments on the Christmas trees.
Anelys opened her eyes wide and stared when she saw her sisters. They wore holiday dresses and sat on a play mat. The girls snuggled, giggled and held their sister's hands. They begged us to bring her home. My heart felt so full and I will never forget the joy of having my husband and our three daughters all together for the first time.
Still, I worried Anelys’ health might get worse again. Serious complications related to premature birth at 22 weeks and six days brought her to the NICU. She arrived at Children’s National small enough to fit in my hand, but strong enough to survive life-threatening challenges and multiple surgeries. She was intubated and ventilated for a long time. NICU visitor guidelines meant my daughters couldn’t visit. I cried every day. With each shift change, I wondered if Anelys would make it through to the next.
When a hospital social worker named Renee helped us to set up this visit on Christmas eve, it meant everything.
Anelys finally came home in March after nearly a year. At 19 months, she is a healthy 22 pounds and weaned off much of her medication, although she still needs plenty of medical care. She sits up, rolls, claps, plays and smiles when she hears laughter around the house. And there is plenty of that. This holiday season, we will celebrate with happiness and joy, with our extended family all together at home.
Doctors, nurses and staff at Children’s National fought hard for my daughter. They listened. They included me in her care and respected my feelings. They gave us so much ― most of all, the gift of life for her and peace for my family. I have deep and profound gratitude. I owe them everything.
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