This article was originally published on NewYork-Presbyterian - Health Matters.
When a mom-to-be experiences the first signs of labor, the anticipation and adrenaline that comes with almost meeting your baby is palpable.
But when Julianne Kanter—who was just over 36 weeks pregnant with twins—realized her water broke at 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 2, she crossed her fingers that her babies could hold out a little longer before making their grand entrance. That’s because Julianne and her husband, Jason, were hoping to welcome their new little ones at the NewYork-Presbyterian Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns, which was scheduled to open its doors for the first time later that morning.
“We were moving slowly in hopes to stretch out the time,” jokes Julianne. “We set a timer to when the hospital was going to open because we really wanted to deliver there!”
By the time the Kanters checked into NewYork-Presbyterian at 6:30 a.m., Dr. Allison Boester, FACOG, an assistant attending obstetrician and gynecologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Julianne’s doctor, was ready to go at the new facility. “Our doors are open, let’s do it!” she told Julianne.
As nurses prepped her to head into the operating room for a C-section, Julianne admitted, “I'm nervous, excited, lots of emotions. I'm looking forward to meeting my children for the first time.”
Julianne didn’t have to wait very long. At 10:22 AM, the Kanters welcomed their son, Connor Alan Kanter at 5 pounds, 9 ounces. One minute later, his sister, Emma Diane Kanter, arrived, weighing in at 4 pounds, 9 ounces.
The Kanter twins became the first babies born at NewYork-Presbyterian Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns, which nearly triples the space available for the care of pregnant women and newborns at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and will accommodate more than 7,000 births a year.
“I felt really honored to be the first doctor to do the first delivery here,” says Dr. Boester, who is also assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine.“It was super exciting—and unplanned. But we were ready, and it was an uncomplicated delivery.”
The same could be said for Julianne’s birthing experience. “It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be,” she says. “The staff was so helpful. They talked me through everything, which really helped me become more comfortable. I felt very well cared for.”
“It’s all very overwhelming,” adds Jason. “But the whole delivery was such a comfortable situation. You’re able to get up and go and see the babies, hold the babies. This has been such an incredible experience.”
As Julianne looks over at her newborn twins, peacefully co-sleeping in the same bassinet, she couldn’t agree more: “We’re so in love.”
“He Fit in the Palms of My Hands”
During her routine check-up in early March, Quinaya Coleman, then 28 weeks pregnant, was feeling great. But suddenly three days later, “my feet swelled up, my face swelled up, my hands—and it would not go down,” says Quinaya.
She quickly sent a message to Faith Okukwe Okuesi, a nurse practitioner at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, who advised her to come to the hospital as soon as possible because swelling is a telltale sign of preeclampsia, a condition that results in high blood pressure during pregnancy or postpartum that can be fatal if left untreated.
Quinaya was admitted to the hospital with the expectation of staying for six weeks, in hopes to keep the baby in utero for as long as possible. Three days later, however, her baby’s heart rate dropped.
“It was not going to be safe to keep him in,” says Quinaya. “That’s when it really hit me: This is serious.”
After an emergency C-section on March 21, Quinaya welcomed her son, Jamie, at 29 weeks. He weighed only 1 pound, 8 ounces. “He was so tiny,” Quinaya says. “He fit into the palms of my hands.”
“He was smaller than expected for his gestational age so the primary concerns were his extremely low birth weight and his underdeveloped lungs,” says Dr. Michael Espiritu, assistant attending pediatrician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Jamie was intubated immediately and placed in an incubator under phototherapy lights. He was later put on continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment, a noninvasive respiratory support given to neonatal patients who have trouble breathing, for two months so his lungs could develop and function on their own.
“Jamie is a strong baby. He’s a fighter,” says Dr. Espiritu, who is also an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics in the division of newborn medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “He’s gone through a lot of respiratory distress, but he has gotten over his needs for extra respiratory support. Now you’d never know that he had gone through any of this.”
With every development in Jamie’s treatment, Quinaya’s NewYork-Presbyterian team was by her side. “The staff would always have family meetings with me when something new came up so we could sit down and talk about it and I could ask questions,” says Quinaya, who recently earned an associate’s degree to become a medical assistant from the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences. “The staff made it a lot easier for me to understand what he needed and what needed to be done for him in order to come home.”
The team also helped Quinaya and Jamie move across the street to the newly opened NewYork-Presbyterian Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns, where Quinaya and James are now enjoying their own room while being cared for in the Level IV NICU center, a designation which marks the highest level of care for neonatal patients.
On Aug. 2, Jamie was one of the first babies who moved to the new NICU unit at NYP Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns. Transported across the street via ambulance, “He slept through the whole thing! No hiccups, no bumps, or anything. It's been a smooth transition for him.”
And an even better transition for Mom. With individual rooms available to all NICU babies and their families and amenities such as pull-out couches, linens, and showers, “I can stay the night,” says Quinaya, who was commuting one hour each way to see her son every day. “It’s easier for me to be able to sleep on a pull-out couch instead of trying to get a car service to go all the way home and then try to find my way back.”
Soon, both mom and son hope to make that journey home together. Now 4 1/2 months old, Jamie has been growing steadily and weighs a healthy 9 pounds. Still, “he’s not taking all of his feeds consistently,” Quinaya says. “Some days he’ll finish, some days he won’t.”
To remedy that, Jamie is due to have surgery to insert a G tube, a device that will give Quinaya the ability to give her son supplemental feedings directly through his stomach. With a G tube in place, Quinaya will not only be able to closely monitor her son’s calorie intake; she will also finally be able to bring Jamie home where her mom, Arnette, will help care for him.
With all the emotional ups and downs of Jamie’s stay at the NICU, Quinaya admits that mentally “it got really overwhelming,” she says. “It’s a whole different story being a NICU mom. This day he was getting this tube. This day it was an IV. It was so much. At first I felt really alone because I’m not the type to ask for help.”
Then Quinaya touched base with a hospital social worker who connected her with Dr. Georgina Hartzell, an infant psychiatry fellow at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and instructor in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine. “I've been talking to her once a week ever since, and she’s been really helpful,” says Quinaya.
Along with the nurses, doctors, and Jamie’s entire care team, Quinaya says “it’s been good to have that support” over the past four months. And now as she prepares to bring her son home, Quinaya says, “Our outlook is looking bright.”