The number of babies born prematurely is up 30-percent over the last 25 years and now 12.5 percent of American babies are born early, many of them start their lives in a neo-natal intensive care unit, like the one at The Children's Hospital Of Southwest Florida.
Erin Gillespie and her husband Pat were expecting a baby, but little Ellie's arrival came quite unexpected. Erin tells us that they weren't ready that day to become parents by any means, they were scared, Erin was more scared for her baby, we knew she wasn't ready at that time, Erin kept telling the doctors that she's not ready. A serious medical condition prompted an emergency c-section. Ellie arrived 2 months early weighing just over 3 pounds. She spent her first days of life in the neo-natal intensive care unit. Erin says that she was the size of her hand.
While families may find themselves unprepared, the NICU medical staff is always ready. The Children's Hospital NICU took care of 701 premature babies last year. Many of them smaller than Ellie. The specialized care they got here helped them grow and thrive.
Lee Memorial Health System Nicu nurse, Suzi Akhavan-Yazdi says that they see babies as small as 23 weeks grow and go home. Being one of Ellie's former caregivers, Suzi was thrilled to see her now at 9-months old. Suzi also tells us that every year they have a reunion party for the babies, they get to come back and play and it's just so wonderful to see how much they've grown.
Erin adds that Ellie is pretty close to being on track and she's right at 17 pounds right now and closing the gap from her early arrival.