Stories - Our Kids
Long stay in neonatal intensive care saved Eli’s life
Eli Mostowy weighed 23 ounces when he was born. Years ago, a premature baby of this size might not have survived. Today, thanks to your support and the expert care at Children’s Hospital, Eli is thriving.
“We didn’t hear him cry, so we weren’t even sure if he was breathing.”
Look at your cell phone. That’s how big Eli Mostowy was when he was born.
In March 2014, a pregnant Judy Mostowy mentioned to her husband Michael that she felt some unusual cramping.
“I was trying to figure out what this pain was,” remembers Judy. “I had never felt it before and I didn’t know if it was normal.”
Just to be sure, the first time expectant parents decided to get checked out at the Women’s Hospital.
“We were really anxious because we waited there for four hours before somebody was able to examine me,” recalls Judy. “When they finally did they said ‘we don’t know how to tell you this but you are already three to four centimeters dilated.’ I told them that can’t be because I’m only 24 weeks pregnant. He’s not ready to come out yet.”
Judy was immediately admitted and transferred to the high-risk floor. Within a few days her contractions grew stronger and she had no choice but to push. Their son Eli was born at 3:28 a.m. on March 6, 2014. He was exactly 25 weeks old, and weighed 1 lb., 7 oz.
Being a premature birth, things didn’t go as expected in the delivery room. Mom and Dad saw baby Eli for about 30 seconds before he was rushed to a nearby room.
“I don’t really know what happened,” says Judy. “They took him right away. All I saw was that they were running out the door. We didn’t hear him cry, so we weren’t even sure if he was breathing.”
It would be two hours before the anxious parents had any answers, or even knew whether tiny Eli had survived.
“It felt like forever,” says Michael. “I was just asking God to help him breathe and make him better, because I knew it was bad.”
Judy and Michael were finally told that Eli was breathing on his own, with the help of nasal prongs, and he had been transferred up to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital. Eli soon developed respiratory distress and needed a tube to help him breathe. The NICU would be Eli’s home for the next 169 days.
With Judy recovering from delivery and not allowed to go and see Eli, Michael did the first visit solo.“It was hard to see him in there. It was very scary,” says Michael. “That first day I was given five minutes to visit with him, and it was so hard to leave. When they told me I had to leave I broke down, but I knew I had to go back and see Judy. I didn’t want her to know I was crying because of Eli, so I took some time to compose myself. It was very hard.”
When Judy got to visit her tiny son the following day, she too had a difficult time. “I cried,” says Judy. “I thought to myself ‘what did I do wrong? I did everything I could for him’. The doctors told me it wasn’t my fault, and there is no way to know what happened. But I couldn’t help but blame myself.”
Although it was difficult to give a firm prognosis, it was clear that the road ahead for the Mostowy family was going to be difficult. “We were told there were going to be a lot of complications along the way,” says Judy.
It was a long ride, but the staff at Children’s Hospital made each of those 169 days a little bit easier to face.
“The nurses helped us understand what they talked about during rounds, Eli’s progress overnight, if he hit any new milestones,” says Judy “They were really good at explaining everything.”
Throughout his lengthy hospital stay, Eli faced many medical hurdles. He was on various ventilators, suffered lung collapses, and received multiple blood transfusions. But for the Mostowy’s the scariest moment came when the doctor called to report that at three weeks of age, Eli was septic, which means he was full of infection.
“When I got that phone call, that was the worst,” says Judy. “They told us to visit with him because he wasn’t doing very well, and they weren’t sure if he was going to make it. I prayed to God, I said ‘please don’t take him because I don’t know what I’m going to do without him.’ I don’t know how you can love a baby so much that early on. I hadn’t even held him and I loved him.”
As a “preemie”, Eli faced an uphill battle trying to fight off the infections, but it was a battle he won. Judy finally held her baby again when Eli was six-weeks-old, but only once, and then it was another six weeks before she got the chance to hold him again.
“Eli was not well enough to be out of the incubator,” remembers Judy. “He was on an aggressive ventilator and had to be kept really stable, so we couldn’t move him. We are so grateful for how Children’s Hospital took care of Eli, because they did everything they could do. It’s because of the research they have done that they were able to give him the medicines he needed to heal.”
More than five months later, Eli had grown to over 11 pounds and was strong enough to go home.
“When they finally told us they were going to discharge Eli, we were just smiling from ear to ear,” remembers Judy. “We thought, this is it, now we get the chance to really take care of him. We could never tell them how grateful we are for helping Eli, and accommodating us, and answering all of our questions. Those nurses treated him like he was their own child.”
Michael feels much the same way about the incredible care his young family received: “Children’s Hospital has the technology to help with things that come up,” says Michael. “They keep the babies healthy. Donating money helps gain more knowledge up about ‘preemies’. They had so much information, but they took their time and they sat with us and explained everything to us. If they couldn’t answer one of our questions immediately, they went and found the answer. Even with all of the babies there, they made each child feel special, as well as the parents. They took care of everybody.”
During the next three months the Mostowy’s were regular visitors at Children’s Hospital with follow-up appointments with respirology, nephrology, cardiology, dietitians, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, ophthalmology, audiology, the feeding clinic, and ENT (ear, nose, and throat). Eli will also be in a follow-up program to monitor his developmental growth.
“We still go and visit the NICU, and every time we go there it’s priceless how the staff appreciate how big Eli is and how well he’s doing,” says Judy. “It was our home for five-a nd-a-half months and we felt like we were part of the team.”
Now happily at home, Eli has some challenges as a result of his premature arrival. He has only central vision on his left eye and is near-sighted. He also has chronic lung disease, which he might outgrow, and has feeding intolerance.
“I still get emotional when I think about all we went through,” says Judy. “Eli is a miracle and a blessing to our family. Thanks to the Children’s Hospital for never giving up on him. As he grows up, he will always be a part of the Children’s Hospital.”
What does Michael hope for his son’s future?
“That he’s successful and does a lot in his life. And that he can share his story with everyone else and teach people that anything is possible,” says Michael. “Every day I look at him and think that he is just a miracle. I hope the best for him and we will do our best to always give him everything that he needs.”
For Judy, her smiling boy has restored her faith;
“I’m just really happy that we were given the chance to be with him because I thought he was going to leave us. I lost my faith when I thought that he wasn’t going to survive. Because of this whole experience I love him more, which I didn’t know was even possible.”
For the Mostowy’s the Children’s Hospital will always hold special meaning for their family: “I encourage everyone to donate and support the Children’s Hospital Foundation,” says Judy. “The hospital gives hope to families and based on our experience, it help changed the outcome for Eli and it definitely helped him to overcome the challenges of prematurity. I’m hoping that through our story, more people will feel inspired to help out and more children will find the cure they’ve been searching for.”
Modified in February 2017
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