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Thank goodness she has wonderful allies in her fight for survival—the dedicated staff of The Mount Sinai Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in New York City.


 
 
 
 
 

Dear Friends,
 
Our miracle daughter Andi arrived 10 weeks early on June 25th, 2012. That morning, seven months pregnant, as I was pushing 19-month-old Eli in his stroller near our apartment, my body suddenly and violently went into early labor. I didn’t know it was labor, but the pain was so intense that I called my dad and asked him to watch Eli so I could go to my OB/GYN and get checked out before our evening plans (attending my step son James’ high school graduation). As soon as my dad saw my face and noted the consistent rise and fall of excruciating pain, he rushed all three of us to my doctor’s office.
 
My husband Jonathan was waiting for us there and we quickly learned I was well into labor and needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately. At 2:30 PM—while I was still in disbelief and thinking, “I live in New York City—my doctors will make it right,”—I was told that I was 8.5 centimeters dilated and this baby was coming NOW! And that due to the trauma, the baby was “breach,” so an emergency C-section was ordered.
 
Baby Girl Knepper arrived safely at 3:04 PM weighing 2 pounds, 12 ounces. It was so surreal, and the shock was overwhelming. We were crying with every emotion—joy, relief, pain, love, amazement. We had a DAUGHTER? But where are they taking her... ??
 
I had often heard that the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Mount Sinai Hospital was the best, but it didn’t really mean anything to me before that day in June. Jonathan and I had created Andi, but from the second she was taken from my body, Andi became the Mount Sinai NICU’s responsibility until she was discharged more than nine weeks later. Our nursing team ensured that she had the right breathing assistance for her tiny lungs; they monitored her heart rate, watched her temperature, swaddled her, bathed her, taught her how to suck, and changed her diapers. The nurses marked down and notified me of every episode and they fed her my breast milk in tiny increments, appropriately increasing the amounts to make sure she gained the right amount of weight. They challenged her to breathe on her own and taught her a daily schedule for survival.
 
I brought Andi Rachel Knepper into this world, but the Mount Sinai NICU staff brought her to life.
 
I visited the 3rd floor on 5th Avenue at 98th Street daily—sometimes up to 3 times a day—to smell her, hold her, introduce her big brother to her, and to check her chart for any episodes. In the nine weeks that Andi lived in the NICU, I knew that she was attended to 24 hours a day. And with every milestone Andi hit, I had an entire “Team Andi” to share in the joy of her accomplishment.
 
However, unlike most families whose full term babies are brought home with them, I was not able to stay with Andi 24/7, which was very hard. Sleeping nightly with my cell phone by my head, I never knew if it was going to ring with some news from the NICU. Thank goodness it never rang.
 
When the exciting and terrifying date arrived when we could bring our baby girl home, my heart was filled once again with many conflicting emotions. I would finally get to care for my own daughter, but I was terrified—I didn’t really know her and she didn’t really know me. I had visited her daily, but didn’t live with her; I didn’t bathe her nightly or change every diaper; I didn’t even know what each of her different cries represented. In addition to saying goodbye to this team of angels who had greeted me with smiles and encouragement every day, I had to develop a different type of bond with my baby, no longer a newborn but now an infant, in a consistent and normal way. Leaving her nightly had been extremely difficult. I wish I could have spent nights with her in the NICU, holding her and experiencing being with her 24 hours as Mommy.
 
So I created TEAM ANDI. We are raising funds to establish private NICU suites in Mount Sinai’s newly renovated department for the most fragile and needy babies and their families. This way families can live with their newborns and get to know them so that when they do go home they are familiar each other and they will have established a deep and strong parent/child bond.
 
Please contribute to this special cause. Your support will enable future NICU families to share the joy of living with their newborn babies in safe surroundings and with the comprehensive, loving care of the NICU staff.
 
With love,
Amy, Jonathan, James, Eli, and Andi

 

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