Katie's First Cry: The Finest Symphony

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Kate at age 7 with volunteers at the 2014 Riley NICU Reunion

The sound of a baby crying no longer bothers me. Hearing my daughter, Katie, finally cry after all she went through in her first weeks of life was like the finest symphony I have ever experienced.

When I was 20 weeks’ pregnant, a routine ultrasound revealed that our precious firstborn had gastroschisis. This is a defect that leaves a hole in the abdominal wall. In cases like Katie's, organs can protrude outside of the abdomen. Katie was born with multiple organs outside of her sweet little body, and was immediately transferred to Riley Hospital.

We couldn't hold her at first. Her gaping opening needed a special covering that protected her organs from drying out and being too exposed. Our medical team added pressure every day to gently force Katie’s organs back in her body. We knew there were risks, like having pieces of intestine dying and needing to be removed. It took weeks to get things back where they were meant to go.

When doctors were able to close her opening finally, my husband Dave and I were overjoyed. Katie had been fed her through an IV, but after three weeks, at last, I was able to teach her to drink some of the breast milk I had pumped for her.

Riley made me feel loved and supported. I felt better just by feeling understood. The NICU team knew what I was going through, and doctors and nurses would regularly offer hugs and comfort. They also allowed me to mother Katie as much as possible. There were times when I actually felt guilty being so stressed, because I knew so many of my new friends in the NICU had it much worse. I learned quickly to count my blessings.

Today Katie is seven years old and in excellent health. Other than a large scar on her stomach, you would never guess that her life was so tenuous at the start. My advice to other families who are going through their own Riley journeys is to remember that you will get through this. Have faith that things will work out, and be grateful that things aren't worse. That is what got me through.

I take nothing for granted, and I thank Riley for helping us through the most trying time of our lives.

Kim Yager, Riley Parent

Kim is a CPA with Cummins, Inc. She and her husband Dave have been married for 9 years and are the proud parents of Katie and her two baby brothers, Matt, who is 5, and Jake, who is 2. They are an active, outdoorsy bunch that enjoy water parks, museums and being together. The Yager family lives in Greenwood, Ind.

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