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Baby on Board: Starting Life in the NICU

April 5, 2012

By Holly Menino

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — For babies born prematurely or with special needs, Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a lifesaver.

With the ability to care for more than 36 babies at a time and more than 500 babies every year, the NICU serves families throughout mid and western Oregon.

Like many families, the Brecko family never expected to need the NICU’s services, but when their child’s life depended on it they were grateful for it.

At 28 weeks pregnant, Rachel Brecko thought she was having a normal pregnancy.

“I was doing really good or thought I was doing really good,” Brecko said.

But when she didn’t feel any fetal movement, she and her husband Bryan went to the hospital.

“They just said we know from her heartbeat that something is wrong and so we have to get her out right now,” Brecko said.

Katelyn Jo Brecko was born on March 14, three months early, via an emergency C-section.

“When they brought her back in I was kind of preparing myself. I know she’s going to be small. When they brought her in, I wasn’t expecting how small she actually was,” Brecko said.

She weighed 1 pound 6.5 ounces and was 12 inches long, the length of a ruler.

“My placenta was actually dead and it wasn’t giving her any nutrition at all,” Brecko said. “They told us that if she would’ve been an hour or two longer from me actually getting to the hospital that she wouldn’t have made it at all.”

From that point on, the Breckos would take a wild roller coaster ride. After birth, their daughter was moved immediately to RiverBend’s neonatal intensive care unit. She was put on a ventilator and then taken off it.

“She was born on Monday and then Wednesday she had a pulmonary hemorrhage, that’s a bleeding in her lungs. She had to be put back on a ventilator; that’s kind of where it went downhill,” Brecko said.
Her brain was also bleeding and she was having problems with her heart. At two weeks old, she was transported to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland for surgery. However, it was a surgery she wouldn’t need, because she started healing all on her own.

“She came out of the NICU having no surgeries at all, which is amazing for the size that she was,” Brecko said.

Before long, her lungs, brain and heart healed. She did have complications with her eyes, but that too went away. Katelyn was taking major steps toward her recovery. She came off the ventilator and the feeding tube.

“Each stage is another stage to go home and so each time she does something successful, it’s like oh we get to go home soon,” Brecko said.

On June 12th, after spending 90 days in the NICU, the Breckos got to bring their little girl home.

“We actually got to take her home on the day that she was due, so she came home when she was meant to come home,” Brecko said.

The ambulance that took Katelyn to Doernbecher Children’s hospital is called Ruby. It’s designed specifically for babies in the NICU and can transport two babies at a time in NICU isolettes.

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