PHOENIX — Melissa Hernandez never would have dreamed that she’d be back in this situation again.
But after spending more than two months with an infant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, she was back just a few years later with her second child, hours after giving birth.
Hernandez’s son, Elijah, spent his first two months in the NICU of Phoenix Children’s Hospital when he was transferred from another hospital shortly after birth.
Elijah was born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that affected his ankles, wrists and elbows. But that wasn’t why he was there.
After birth, doctors noticed he was vomiting a lot and not able to keep any milk down. Once he was taken to PCH, the team of specialists found an obstruction in his intestine and took him in for immediate surgery.
After recovering from that surgery, Elijah started on a series of surgeries for his arthrogryposis.
Meanwhile, his new sister, Ivyana, was born.
Soon after her birth, doctors picked up on Ivyana’s heart arrhythmia from a condition called supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT.
She was airlifted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
While doctors there were treating the arrhythmia, they discovered a more serious disorder: Neuroblastoma, cancer of the nervous system.
“I had the opportunity to meet this momma twice,” said Dr. Deborah Tom, a neonatologist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Tom quarterbacked the treatment of both Elijah and Ivyana.
“Both of the babies were referred to the PCH NICU because of the high level of care we are able to give babies and because of the all the different coordination of care with all the pediatrics specialist,” Tom explained.
Even though she knew her children were receiving the best care possible, Hernandez still felt overwhelmed.
“I honestly don’t know how I pulled through, but every day I would fight just to get through the day,” said Hernandez.
“You have to pull through no matter what. You cannot give up because you are the only person, as a parent, that will be able to take care of your child.”
The diagnosis and subsequent chemo treatments, along with an array of health complications requiring specialty care from nearly a dozen different Phoenix Children’s divisions, kept Ivyana in the NICU for more than five months.
Along with the Supraventricular Tachycardia, that caused the arrhythmia, Ivyana was born with amniotic bands on her hands. An upcoming surgery will repair the condition.
“At this point in time, and they still have a long road ahead of them, but both Ivyana and Elijah are doing really, really well compared to where they started at,” Tom noted.
While having an array of specialties under one roof at PCH was tremendously helpful for both mother and doctor. Tom is quick to credit Hernandez for her children’s recovery.
“It’s because they have an amazing mother and they have the support of Phoenix Children’s behind them with all list of specialty care. Because of that, I think these babies have done as well as they have: They’re true miracles.”