Early on in her third pregnancy, Yanling Chan was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Although she had to take insulin and manage her diet, she felt great and her pregnancy was progressing along. Not long after her 20-week ultrasound, things changed quickly.
Over the coming weeks and months, she and her family would be challenged beyond what most families manage with a newborn.
Yanling went to see her obstetrician with bleeding just after her 20-week ultrasound. She was stabilized and discharged to go home, only to return to the emergency room the next day. There, she was discovered to be in progressing labor and had experienced a rupture of membranes, and her care team quickly transferred Yanling to The Mother Baby Center in Minneapolis to be cared for by Children’s Minnesota and Allina Health specialists.
Yanling spent three weeks in the hospital, hoping to continue her pregnancy for as long as possible. At 23 weeks, she went into labor and was rushed in for an emergency delivery. Through a cesarean delivery, Yishan was born weighing only 520 grams, just a little heavier than a pound of butter. The neonatology team worked to stabilize him and took him to the Children’s Minnesota NICU where he would spend the first three months of his life.
Caring for Yishan
Not long after Yishan’s birth and Yanling’s surgery, the team wheeled her bed into Yishan’s room so she could see her son for the first time. She was shocked and in disbelief. He was reddish, so small and full of tubes and monitors. Yanling and her husband, Ruhai, had heard the statistics of babies born at 23 weeks, and while they knew their son’s survival wasn’t certain, they looked for hope that their son would be a miracle baby — that he would beat the odds.
In the coming months, Dr. Jennifer Berger, neonatology physician at Children’s Minnesota, and the team of neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs), nurses, respiratory therapists, neonatologists and many other important specialists, each of whom had a specific role in caring for Yishan and his family. The care of babies in the NICU requires a multidisciplinary team with the baby and family at the center of that team.
“With critical care, we’re very focused on the details. We have a team approach and lean on each other for our areas of expertise. I specialize in very small babies, so I volunteered to be Yishan’s primary neonatologist,” said Dr. Berger. “My top priority was to talk frequently with family so that they understood what was happening day to day and helped them understand how they could be an integral member of their baby’s care team.”
The dedication and clear communication of the physicians, nurses and other clinicians supported the family through the roller coaster days and nights in the NICU. They supported them through blood transfusions, ventilator needs, IV nutrition, glucose tests and injections, x-rays and more. The constant uncertainty made it difficult to sustain hope.
The Children’s Minnesota experience that makes a difference
“I knew that Yanling and Ruhai were really struggling with the uncertainty. Having cared for many babies born at 22-23 weeks gestation, who not only survived to discharge but were at home doing well, I wanted to do more,” said Dr. Berger. “So, I reached out to one of my previous NICU families, and with their consent, shared their success story and photos of their son born at 23 weeks gestation. I believe this family’s story gave Yanling and Ruhai hope that their son could also be a success story.”
And it did.
“Our doctor and team never gave up. It was so important to us. Since they didn’t give up, we couldn’t either,” said Yanling. “I really appreciated the doctors and nurses. I couldn’t have imagined going through all this without their support. Especially in the beginning when it was so hard to feel hopeful about the future.”
Prior to babies going home, the neonatologists contact the baby’s doctor to give them a summary of the baby’s NICU course. They also send a narrative summary, contact information for specialists the patients will continue to see, their medications, feeding plan, and what to monitor.
Yishan turned one!
In September 2020, Yishan turned 1 year old. He’s very healthy and meeting his milestones. To look at him, you wouldn’t know about his birth journey.
“Everyone thinks he’s a normal baby. When I look at the pictures, tears come. I feel joy,” said Yanling. “He sleeps well, doesn’t cry too much and is very healthy. We’re so thankful. He’s a miracle baby.”