What’s a NICU Mom Thankful For?

October 16, 2014 Brigham and Women's Hospital

The boys celebrate their first birthday with NICU nurses Kathy Moran (left) and Mary Ellen Musynski.

The breadth of medical expertise and advanced technology available in a Level 3 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is invaluable for treating and monitoring babies born with dangerous medical conditions. But helping these babies and their parents involves much more than providing state-of-the-art medical care.

Karyn, a North Shore mother of triplets born at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), is well aware of the scope of care provided in a NICU. She’s thankful for all the people who helped take care of her triplet sons – and her – while the boys recovered in the BWH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the fall of 2012. That includes people she saw nearly every day and people she never saw at all.

Her boys Tyler, Caleb, and Nathan were born at 27 weeks that fall. As expected with any child born that early, they all had issues with lung development, breathing, and feeding.

To help sustain them during the critical first month after their birth, all three boys required blood transfusions. With Karyn’s iron levels being so low after the delivery and her husband, Kevin, not having the same blood type as the boys, neither was able to donate blood to their triplets. Later on, when two of the boys required yet another transfusion, Karyn’s iron levels had recovered sufficiently for her to qualify as a donor. Despite her fear of needles, Karyn was eager to contribute.

“I really don’t like needles,” says Karyn. “But you come with a different perspective when it’s your family or friends.”

That perspective was positively colored by the knowledge that anonymous, unrelated donors had stepped up to help her children.

“Now that I’ve been through it, I would donate again – knowing what it’s like to be the one who needs it,” she explains.

Karyn is also thankful for the nurses who took care of her and her children 24/7 and helped her become a confident mother of preemies.

“Our nurses at the Brigham were our survival,” says Karyn. “They are beyond incredible. They are there to care for the babies, but half of what they do is care for the parents.”

From monitoring the babies’ health to providing emotional support and education, the boys’ primary nurses, Mary Ellen “Mel” Musynski and Kathy Moran, and other members of the nursing team were constantly there for whatever her family needed. They helped her get involved with changing and holding her babies, did what they could to make her feel as comfortable as possible, stood by her when she cried, and answered all her questions – both when she was in the hospital and afterward, when she called from home.

“They took care of our mental health as much as the babies’ physical health.  They pushed us to do things for the boys when they knew we were just too scared or nervous to do it ourselves. They were always a familiar, friendly, comforting presence, and they loved the boys for us when we could not be there.”

Karyn and the boys are all healthy now, but they still come in regularly to visit the NICU staff. Karyn considers them be part of her extended family.

“It’s an amazing community of people,” she says. “They are everything to us.”

Learn more about the NICU and blood donation:

- Chris P.
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