The Jackie Story
Written By: Dennis O'Connor (Dad)
On Saturday, July 16, 1994, my wife, Amanda, and I had a day off and were looking for something to do. It was extremely hot out and Amanda was 25 weeks pregnant with our first child. So, needless to say, whatever we decided to do, it was going to be somewhere where it was cool. We decided to go see the new Tom Hanks movie that everyone has been talking about, Forest Gump. During the movie, Amanda started complaining about not feeling well. When we got home from the movie, Amanda noticed her ankles and calves were significantly swollen and her heart seemed to be pounding out of her chest. She called her doctor and he told her to go to the Milford Hospital ER. At the hospital, her blood pressure was dangerously high and she was admitted to the hospital for more tests.
On Sunday morning, Amanda’s doctor informed us she had pre-eclampsea and was going to be transferred to the new Yale Children’s Hospital where they were much better equipped to take care of both her and the baby. On the way to Yale, Amanda started having seizures. Once at Yale, doctors stabilized Amanda and started testing on both her and the baby. Later that day, doctors told us that Amanda now has eclampsea and will be staying in the hospital until the baby is born. The baby was doing well. The heart was fully formed with no murmurs and there were no bleeds in the baby’s head. The one issue was the baby’s lungs were not fully developed and a steroid regime was going to be started to help speed this development along. Monday and Tuesday more testing was done and Amanda was settling in for a long hospital stay.
Wednesday, July 20, 1994, turned out to be the scariest day of my life. The doctor came in Wednesday morning to do his normal morning ultrasound on the baby. Right away, I could tell something was wrong. The doctor excused himself and a few minutes later several more doctors were looking at the ultrasound. After further consultation, the doctor came back and told us that there was a significant loss of fluid in the placenta and that Amanda was going to have to have a C-section today. Any further delay would put both Amanda and the baby at risk. My absolute worst fear was coming true. Both Amanda and the baby were now in serious trouble.
Both Amanda and I had lots of questions about a baby being born at 25 weeks. The doctor’s let us know that Jackie had a 1 and 4 chance of surviving, at most three days. We were told to prepare to plan a funeral and notify family. If she did happen to survive, she would more than likely have many medical issues. The doctor’s also let us know that this would not be a normal birth. Because of the underdevelopment of the baby’s lungs, we would not hear her cry. We would not get to hold her or cut the umbilical cord. As soon as the baby was born, she would immediately be handed over to the NICU team for evaluation and the start of her care.
At 3:21pm, Jacquelyn Jean O’Connor was born weighing 1 pound 4 ounces. As the doctor who was performing the C-section handed Jackie to the NICU nurse, Jackie let out a little squeak that stopped everyone in the room. This was totally unexpected and I could see the doctors and nurses smiling through their masks. It was at that moment that I knew my daughter was a fighter and that she was going to do absolutely everything she can possibly do to beat the odds.
We did not get to see Jackie until very late Sunday night. This visit was filled with mixed emotions. We were very happy to see our little girl but also sad and worried because we could not touch her, hold her or even kiss her. We were only able to look at our little girl on a warming bed with wires and tubes coming and going from everywhere. At this point the doctor’s were not prepared to give us any answers so we were left with all our questions.
On Thursday, the doctor gave us an update on Jackie’s condition. All things considered, she was doing ok. She lived past the three day prediction, the biggest issue being that Jackie’s lungs were not developed and she could not breath on her own. The doctor told us that Jackie would face many issues along the way. The first two weeks were a roller coaster ride. It was a good day followed by a bad day then an okay day. There were many days where our little fighter looked to be all worn out but she would always rebound.
By the third week, we were settled into a routine and just trying to will Jackie to grow. We finally got to hold our little girl for the first time. Again, it was full of mixed emotions. We were so happy to finally hold her but also so scared because she was so small. Jackie fit in the palm of my hand and seemed to be weightless.
During this time, Jackie developed an intestinal issue, which the doctor’s thought may be a blockage. If this was the case, Jackie would be facing a surgical procedure which none of us wanted to see happen. This issue worked itself out over several days and no surgery was needed.
After a month in the NICU, Jackie was doing well enough where she was spending more and more time outside of her isolette. Amanda and I were now able to feed her. We were introduced to Kangaroo care and this quickly became a favorite activity of both Jackie and I. Jackie would burrow into my chest like a cat into a soft pillow and we would both be asleep in minutes.
About 7 weeks in, Jackie was doing well enough that she graduated to continuing care. There was now officially a light at the end of the tunnel. Going home was actually being talked about now.
Finally, THE day was here, after 77 days we were finally going home. Jackie came home a little under 5 pounds and doing very well health wise.
Over the years Jackie has dealt with several medical issues related to her premature birth. She suffered from asthma, IBS and migraine headaches. She has never let any of these issues get in her way. Through the years, Jackie has played baseball and soccer but at 6 years old she found the one activity that became her passion, cheerleading. Jackie cheered from 6 years old until 21 years old. Now she enjoys passing on her love for cheerleading by coaching. She stopped personally cheering to pursue her dream of becoming a NICU nurse.
This summer Jackie turned 22 years old and is a full time nursing student, has a part time job which she loves and work very hard are at and will be a nurse in January 2017. Both her mom and I are very proud of the young women she has become.