Looking at Dana Dawson’s babies today, no one would guess they started their lives with an extended hospital stay.
Weighing about 12 pounds each at just 5 months old, the mom of four said, “They’re chunky and love to laugh.” The bouncing baby boys, Amari and Kaiden, spent their first 53 days at Akron Children’s Hospital’s NICU after being delivered at a nearby hospital at 27 weeks in April, weighing about 2 pounds each. They went home June 5 to join big sister A’Maya, 14, and 13-year-old brother Jaylen.
Walk for Babies – Sunday, Oct. 3
This year, the Dawsons have been chosen as the Walk for Babies featured family. The fundraiser, which will be virtual this year, is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 3. Participating teams will walk 1 mile to celebrate the NICU and support the families who have babies there. The Dawsons will walk in west Akron around Dana’s parents’ neighborhood.
Dana, of Akron, had a normal, healthy pregnancy, which made the realization she was in labor earlier than anticipated all the more frightening. Ultimately delivering the boys at Summa Akron City Hospital, the twins were healthy overall and were breathing well enough to not require intubation. Physicians involved in her care established a game plan from the moment she went into labor, Dana said, which included the babies being transferred to Akron Children’s Hospital’s NICU after they were delivered.
Children’s nurses provide comforting support system
Once transferred to Akron Children’s, the boys’ stay was as comforting as possible because of the team of doctors and nurses there, Dana said. “Akron Children’s Hospital made everything so much better,” she said. On nights she couldn’t stay with the boys after she was discharged, her favorite nurse at Akron Children’s would leave Dana a play-by-play of what happened with the babies in the NICU. “She made it possible to be a mom outside of the hospital,” Dana said. “I felt my boys were loved and cared for.”
Nurses would leave mementos, including hospital bands and photos, marking the boys’ first bath and other milestones. Finally, discussions of taking the boys home began. Those talks stopped when one of the babies had a lower heart rate. Doctors discussed sending one of the twins home, but ultimately both stayed a little longer. When that happened, a letter of encouragement was left for Dana from her favorite nurse. “They have other patients, but that nurse made everything better,” Dana said.
On the twins’ last day in the hospital, a nurse stayed with her in the room the entire morning, “making sure I was supported” and allowing her to ask any questions she had. To this day, she still gets phone calls from the hospital checking in on the family, Dana said.
Helping hands offer needed encouragement
This instance was the first of any of Dana’s children needing to stay at the hospital for an extended time. Between the nurses’ care and doctors talking with her, discussing what to expect during and after labor, “I felt very much encouraged,” she said.
Another beacon of light has been her mother, Pat Jones, who was a physical therapist with Akron Children’s. She held her daughter’s hand in the delivery room and has continued to help her daughter every step of the way. “If it weren’t for her there is no way I could do this,” Dana said.
“Be involved,” mom of preemies suggests
For any parent whose children could have an extended stay at a hospital, Dana recommends they ask questions and be as involved as possible with their hospital team. One memory that shines a little brighter to Dana was the first day she was out of the hospital and went to Akron Children’s to be with her boys. “An entire team came into the room,” she said, “which can seem a little intimidating.” They made sure to explain to Dana who each person was, but more importantly, they made sure to include her. “They made it clear I was part of the team, and that it was OK to ask questions,” she said.