One Mother's NICU Story Part 2: Accepting Help Is a Humbling Experience
by Kelly gallagher
The next few weeks were some of the most trying times of my life. I would get up and drive 25 minutes to the hospital, spend 8 hours in the NICU with my boys, come home to feed and bathe my older two, then trudge back up to the hospital for another 4 hours. I must have logged hundreds of hours in that hospital chair. I remember sitting down the first night after I came home from seeing them. I was discharged the day before and the impact of the stress was sky high. I was exhausted from trying to act strong, overwhelmed from the inability to care for my boys at home and frustrated by the tears that would not stop flowing. I went into the bathroom, locked the door and cried. I wanted so desperately to feel sorry for myself and be angry for not carrying them to term. I felt out of control and unable to process the wide range of postpartum emotions I was dealing with. Why me? Why my boys? Why did we have to be the 1 in 10? It’s a question that I had asked several hundred times in just a few days, but I picked myself up that night. Slowly, but strongly. My boys needed me just as much as I needed them. I knew my options were to sit back and be a bystander or become the one who made a difference.
I opened the door and never turned back.
I got up that next morning and didn’t stop until the second my head hit the pillow. My entire attitude changed. I became a part of the “medical team.” Did I have my moments? Absolutely! My older two were being shuffled back and forth between family and friends. The sterile smell of the unit combined with the soft beeping of the machines became my lullaby as I anxiously waited for daily rounds to be completed. Doctors became friends and nurses became family.We shared stories, shed a few tears and always ended days with a smile. Well, most days. Within three weeks, it was Curran’s turn to graduate. Armed with a freshly opened infant carrier that had been sitting unoccupied for what felt like an eternity, we placed him in the car and waved goodbye. Actually, it was more like see you later.
You, see, Connor was still in the hospital and not cleared to go home. On top of now caring for a preemie at home and my two older kids, I now had to somehow work spending my day at Holy Redeemer with Connor into the mix. Those 4 days felt like 40. I could not have done any of it without my support system. Meals, cards, gifts and prayers made our life manageable. You can’t really comprehend the meaning of appreciation until you go through a trying time in your life. Accepting help is a humbling experience. It allows true love to break walls you did not even know existed. My walls certainly crumbled after that summer.
Accepting help also enabled me to have the strength to believe in the power of giving back.
I spent a few months pondering how I could help a few families who have to spend their first holiday in the unit where we spent their first summer. By Christmas, I had gathered enough donations from family and friends to deliver 15 baskets filled with gift cards, crocheted hats, snacks, journals, sanitizer, and love. My heart was full but this tiny ache was still there. It nagged at me. The little sleep in which I was being granted by my sleeping angels became disrupted by my visions of wanting change. What one thing would have changed the way I bonded with my boys during their time there? Although there is no way to replace physically being there holding them, was there something out there that came close? I began immersing myself in Google searches on the NICU and different breakthrough ideas that were being driven across the country. Without hesitation, I knew that the minute I stumbled upon the Angel Eye camera system equipment, I had found something that offered exactly what I was looking for. This was it!
This small piece of equipment was an opportunity to change lives for NICU moms at Holy Redeemer. I was sure it was a great idea. I knew moms would love it. But, how could I convince the hospital to take this kind of a jump. Would people connect with the idea and buy into it? At $2,500 per camera plus maintenance and training, this was not an overnight thing.
Little did I know the impact this idea would have on hundreds of people. This idea would pave the way for a new method of distributing family-based care in our hospital. This was no longer about me or my feelings about my experience with my boys. It was about every mom out there who has had to leave their baby in the hospital. The next week, I put up a Go Fund Me account and raised almost $3,000 in a little over a month. It was then I realized that my idea needed to become more than just that. But, where to begin? I had yet to approach anyone from the hospital. Would they kindly shut down my idea? How much red tape would I need to break through? Did I have the time or the strength to take this to the top? My superheroes at home gave me the go ahead. I was ready for the jump. I just don’t think I was ready for how hard I would fall for the idea that would take me on a path in life that I never knew existed. But sometimes in life, you need to fall to realize that getting up and moving forward is the only way to bring change. The Superhero Project was born and immediately began its mission. I was ready and willing to make this idea a reality. What I wasn’t ready for was the hundreds of people who would rally behind me and help me change lives one dollar at a time.
CLICK TO READ MORE OF THE SERIES:
Kelly Gallagher is a Philadelphia native and holds a master’s degree in Special Education. Recently named the recipient of a KYW women's achievement award, she is passoniate about giving back to families who have babies in the NICU.
She is a blogger, wife, dynamic philanthropist and has been a full time elementary school teacher for the past 16 years. She is also the mother of four beautiful children - Addyson, Ryan, Connor and Curran. Kelly founded The Superhero Project Inc in late 2015. This 501c3 organization supports premature babies and their families and started shortly after the premature birth of her twin sons, Connor and Curran, in 2014
Kelly organizes photo sessions, speaks to families and provides them with emotional support needed in a time of crisis. She has donated over $50,000 to hospitals in the Philadelphia area to install Angel Eye Cameras bedside so families can see and interact with their baby 24/7 via a remote and secure feed.
Kelly has allowed her experience in the NICU to transform the role of the family unit and help bridge the gap between home and hospital. She continues to be inspired by the many families who don't start their journey to motherhood easily and motivated to help other moms who need support.