It's Only Fair We Give a Little Something Back

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Madeline Burke, Bloomington, Ind.

On August 31st, 2013, after two weeks of preterm labor, and still just over three weeks shy of my due date, I called my OB, panting. “I think this is for real. I think she’s coming.” My husband, Bobbie, and I arrived at Bloomington Hospital at 7:23pm. My contractions were four minutes apart, and I was 6 centimeters dilated.

I was right. She was coming.

At 8:33pm, Madeline Louise Burke was born via C-section. Weighing 6 lbs., 15 oz., you’d never know that she was technically a “preemie,” missing her full-term date by one day. Everyone was smiling and clapping, making jokes about her big size.

Then, two minutes after birth, the nurses noticed that she wasn’t crying.

Her lungs had filled with fluid, and were refusing to open.

They rushed her to the special care nursery, and started her on oxygen, an IV, and antibiotics.

Her pediatrician looked worried. Maddie was panting—short, quick breaths—that left her flushed, swollen, and feverish. Every single ounce of her energy was spent just trying to breathe.
The pediatrician explained the severity of her condition to us: “She can only keep this up for so long. We have to try to help her force air into her lungs, because the fear is that she’ll lose strength, and just,” she paused, and shook her head, “stop.”

After twelve hours with no noticeable improvement, the pediatrician made the decision to have Maddie airlifted to Riley Hospital for Children. Immediately upon being assessed by their team of pulmonary specialists, Maddie began to show improvement. By the time Bobbie and my mother-in-law, Sandy, arrived in Indianapolis, just behind Maddie’s helicopter, she looked better, and her vitals were more stable.

Once I was finally able to leave Bloomington the next day and see her for myself, I knew that my little girl was here to stay. She was and is a fighter. And the NICU staff members at Riley were exactly the support team that she and the whole family needed. Capable, but compassionate, they instilled a sense of calm assuredness in all of us. It was a relief to know that someone was in charge, that they were making the decisions, and all I had to do was love my baby girl.

I have no doubts that they saved Maddie’s life.

During those six days at the NICU, I saw firsthand the kind of challenges the NICU staff at Riley face regularly. Maddie’s condition was serious, but relatively simple. Other children come to them with many more problems: physical, developmental, immunological, neurological immaturities that leave them in the NICU for weeks, even months. Other parents arrive there without the educational background, or familial and financial support that we were fortunate enough to have. I saw the staff struggle, grieve, and celebrate right alongside the parents.  They gave their all.

It’s only fair that we give a little something back. We sent in a donation to Riley Children’s Foundation earlier this year to say “thank you.”

Today, Maddie is an active, healthy 19-month-old. She is a troublemaker, who can disarm even the most righteous of parental rage with one of her incredible, wide grins. Because of Riley’s intervention early on, Maddie has suffered absolutely no long term negative effects from her pulmonary hypertension. It is because of Riley that my family is complete. Because of Riley, my little girl is the bright, energetic, irascible, completely loveable human being that she is.

Because of Riley she is here. Forever.

Thank you, Riley. Truly, we cannot thank you enough.

Rachel Baumgardner-Burke

Rachel Baumgardner-Burke and her husband Bobbie live in Bloomington, Ind., with their children, Sophia and Madeline.

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