As reported by West Hartford Patch, January 29, 2011.

After Five Months in Intensive Care, Miracle Baby Going Home

Adelynn and Her Pennsylvania Parents Called UConn Home as She Grew

By Kaitlin McCallum

When Erin and Chris Lewis headed to a Labor Day picnic Sept. 5, they had no idea they would spend the next five months in a hospital room 300 miles from home waiting to see if their baby, then 24 weeks gestation, would survive. But in the midst of the picnic came blood, and shortly thereafter at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, came baby Adelynn, just 1.6 pounds.

Since then, Adelynn has been at University of Connecticut Health Center, in the care of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and the couple has been at her side, hoping, praying and watching her grow.

Today, Adelynn is over 6 pounds, has passed her expected due date and is finally ready for her family to take her home.

But, “It’s been a long ride,” said Erin.

When Erin discovered she was bleeding, the couple called 911 and was rushed by ambulance to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital. The hospital was not equipped to handle the tenuous preterm birth, so they called UConn’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit team to assist. The team was there within the hour, Chris said, and the fellow from the UConn team delivered Adelynn.

“The way that they acted so quickly and did everything based on the best clinical information and how right they were… in reality, they saved Erin’s life as well as Adelynn’s. We owe a huge debt of gratitude,” Chris said.

NICUs are divided by tier depending on their ability to handle complex medical situations, from one, which accommodates healthy newborns, to three, which cares for the most vulnerable. UConn and Yale New Haven Hospital are the only Connecticut hospitals in the third tier.

UConn’s NICU is staffed with eight neonatalogists, respiratory therapists, neonatal nurse practitioners, physician assistants and pediatric residents who provide constant care. Erin and Chris Lewis believe they were blessed to be in Connecticut at the time, within proximity of UConn’s top-notch NICU.

“If she’d been born in Pennsylvania, she wouldn’t have made it,” Erin said. “It’s surreal.”

Though it all seems to have worked out, not everything went according to plan.

When Adelynn was transferred to UConn a few hours after her birth, doctors told the couple they could expect to go home about the time Erin was due to deliver.

But then Adelynn had a pulmonary hemorrhage and her doctors panicked. The hemorrhage caused scarring of her already vulnerable lungs and they expected cranial bleeding, as well. Her parents had her baptized.

The damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been and Adelynn has kept growing, kept getting stronger, fighting every day.

“[The doctors] are really amazed that she’s gaining the weight. She’s battled throughout this whole process and come back stronger,” Erin said.

Chris is awed by the strength in the tiny babies at the NICU.

“It’s amazing to see the babies in here and how much they want to be a part of this world and part of our family,” Chris said. “We worry so much over the choices we make but they’re just fighting to be a part of the conversation.”

“She’s inspired us. We’ve learned so many lessons,” Erin said.

Through it all, Erin stayed with Adelynn. The UConn Health Center Auxiliary rents a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit at the Homewood Suites for families to stay in while their baby is in the Newborn Intensive Care Nurseries.

“It’s given us the opportunity to have meal, a roof over our head. It’s been such a blessing to us not having to worry about it and just being a mile away,” Chris said.

Being close by allowed them the flexibility to be at the nursery, which doesn’t restrict parent-visiting hours, whenever they could.

“I would come at 2 in the morning and just sit by her bedside and take it all in,” Erin said.

Erin works for the American Cancer Society, which has allowed her complete freedom to be with Adelynn. Chris is a ph.D candidate at Penn State, working on a degree in Health Policy and Administration under the auspices of Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer and Disparity Research. Both careers stemmed from a bout Chris had with cancer earlier in the couple’s relationship.

Chris has continued working throughout since Adelynn was born – staying in Farmington for Adelynn’s Monday morning appointment, then heading back to Pennsylvania for work and classes Tuesday through Friday, driving back Friday night and spending the weekend with Erin and Adelynn.

“It was the right thing to do,” Chris said, “…because we know that at the end of the day we’re going to have a healthy child.”

And now, with a healthy child, the months of long drives and long nights have a sweet payoff.

“We call her our miracle. It really has been a long road and we have cannot thank everyone at UConn and Charlotte Hungerford enough. Since we’ve been so displaced, they really have become our family,” Erin said.

The couple agrees it will be bittersweet to leave the place and the people who have been their home and family for the past five months, but they have big plans.

Chris has a Patriot shirt for Adelynn waiting at home and the family, stronger and healthier, can’t wait to move on to many years of simple, everyday joys.