Carmen Ortiz of Springfield had no idea that she’d be delivering her baby girl instead of celebrating her own birthday in August.
"We had just finished my birthday dinner and I felt pain," said Ortiz. "It started to get worse so we went to the hospital."
Since her due date wasn’t until November, Ortiz didn’t expect to deliver so soon. Johnalee Lopez was born at Baystate Medical Center on August 22, three months ahead of schedule.
"She was originally due the week of Thanksgiving on November 22, but she was born three months early,” said Johnny Lopez-Santos, Johnalee’s father. “It was scary; she was so small and fragile.”
Shortly after birth, Johnalee was whisked to the Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where she stayed for three months.
During that time she started drinking breast milk and began growing more each day. Despite a few complications when she was diagnosed with an infection and a cold, Johnalee was getting bigger and stronger each day.
Johnalee’s parents say that while it was difficult experience, they couldn’t have done it without the help and support of the team in the NICU. "We are so grateful for the NICU staff; everyone was so nice and treated her well,” said Ortiz. “They all loved her and went out of their way to make our entire family feel special. We really bonded with the nurses and staff; they have become like a second family to us.”
Baystate Children’s Hospital has the only Level Three NICU in the region, providing specialized care for babies like Johnalee, without their families having to travel far from home.
Much To Be Thankful For
Now, instead of expecting a baby for Thanksgiving, the family will be able to celebrate the holiday with their bundle of joy.
"We’re so happy to be bringing her home,” said Ortiz. “It was hard leaving her here for three months and not having her with us."
“Being here for three months, we’ve seen a lot of her roommates come in and go home before her,” said Lopez-Santos. “We were so excited for the day that she could actually come home with us, and now the day is finally here, just in time for the holiday.”