A little bit of sunshine (or should we say “son”shine?) has filled the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) the past 192 days thanks to Anthony Santino DeAngelis, AKA Sonny. He came to Akron Children’s in the midst of winter so it only seems fitting that the sun is shining bright as Sonny makes his exit from Akron Children’s today.
Sonny’s mother, Michelle, was enjoying a nice night out with her husband, TJ, when her water suddenly broke at only 21 weeks gestation. She was soon admitted to Summa Health’s Akron City Hospital and put on bedrest to give Sonny as much time as possible to keep growing before birth. A few weeks later on Feb. 27, Sonny made his entrance into the world at a mere 1 pound, 6 ounces.
The next few months would be a battle for Sonny as he faced many common diagnoses in the NICU, including chronic lung disease (CLD), periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
Despite all of the roadblocks, Sonny continued to improve. By mid-April, he graduated from the NICU Small Baby Unit and was on to his next mission, meeting big brother, 5-year-old Dominic. Due to restrictions on visitors during flu season and while Sonny was so little, it took a little while to make this happen.
The brothers skyped, and Dominic talked about moving his little brother into their home. Finally, after 2 months of waiting, the brothers were able to meet, much to the delight of the new big brother.
Michelle, TJ and Dominic adjusted to life as a NICU family, balancing life at home and hospital. The parents worked hard to keep Dominic’s life as normal as possible while tending to their micro preemie’s needs. The family of 4 spent the summer making special memories as Sonny put on weight and worked toward going home.
Despite his small stature, Sonny is a determined baby who makes his own rules. Michelle says, “It’s Sonny’s world, and we are just livin’ in it.” When the doctors discussed his intubation status, Sonny decided he was done with it and pulled it out. When Sonny was done with his nasogastric (NG) tube, out it came by his own hands. While prepping for discharge, he decided he was ready for his room air test and took off his oxygen cannula.
During his time in the NICU, Sonny developed quite the community following. Across social media, “Sonny days ahead” shirts popped up along with groups across the hospital rocking their yellow for Sonny. It takes a village, they say, and the village showed up for Sonny.
After 192 days, Sonny is finally making his grand exit. Sitting in their hospital room, Michelle and Sonny cuddle up while he enjoys his last feeding at the hospital. The squeak of tiny shoes is heard down the hall and suddenly in walks big brother.
Michelle tells Dominic that they will be taking Sonny home in only 15 minutes, but that is still too long for the excited kindergartener. Dominic exclaims, “I want Sonny to come home in 1 second!” and all the nurses in the room there to see Sonny out immediately let out an “awe” in unison.
After the wagons of Sonny’s items, accumulated from over the past 6 months, make their way down to the car, it is time to head out. As the family walks out, nurses, doctors, and staff along the way stop and give hugs, warm wishes, and high fives. Sonny has truly made an impact here at Akron Children’s.
TJ stands by the car, awaiting his family to make the journey home. After a few final photos, Sonny is strapped in and ready to go. Michelle rolls down the window to wave and laughs, “Sonny’s now crying.” It’s okay Sonny, we will miss you, too! But don’t worry, there are “Sonny” days ahead!