One Mother's NICU Story Part 1: The Moments That Change Us
by Kelly Gallagher
There are moments in our lives that change us in indescribable and powerful ways. Sometimes we do not know we have been changed until the moment has already left us. Each blissful moment that, for better or worse, encompasses a tiny piece of what makes our heart beat a little faster to remind us of how alive we are. Having a baby is one of those amazing links to the chain in which we build our path in life. Balloons, gifts, flowers and big hugs abound the hospital room- remind us of the celebration being had in the new life that was just born. But what happens when your baby comes before you are ready and needs more care than anticipated?
I never knew before the summer of 2014 that tucked in the corner of the 4th floor at Holy Redeemer Hospital, there would be a unit that was created for saving babies lives. But now I know.
The Holy Redeemer NICU became our home for a month that summer after our twin boys, Connor Joseph and Curran James, made their dramatic entrance into the world 8 weeks early. Weighing in at a hefty 2.11 and 5.1 pounds respectively, I often define my life from before and after of the day I delivered the boys. One moment I was heading in for my routine testing and the next being administered steroid shots and terrified. 48 hours later, in the OR with a team of strangers, I laid cold and afraid. Every ounce of my body, my brain and my heart rejoiced when they came out screaming. Before I could exhale, both were whisked away and hooked up to more tubes, machines and monitors than I could count. But even today, if I had to relive one day over and over again what would it be? Hands down- the day I brought two new lives into this world.
“…Where there is a will there is always a way.”
In the next few weeks, I made deals with God at their bedside that I am too ashamed to admit. I sobbed heavily, salt-filled tears that poured down my face as I questioned how my body could fail me. I held vigil at their bedsides awaiting morning rounds with the doctors to gain every inch of information I could to bring me one step closer to taking my boys home. Somewhere, through the fog, I celebrated with my husband. Our two beautiful twin boys who made us a family of 6. After four days, it was my turn to go home. My other two children missed their mommy and I knew they needed to see my smile desperately. I kissed the twins goodbye, sat down in my wheelchair and headed for the elevator. No balloons, no flowers and no smile. Those five minutes alone with a strange nurse and my husband were life-altering. I have delivered two full term babies at Holy Redeemer before. This was different. How could they expect me to leave without my babies?
I left my heart at Holy Redeemer as I got into my waiting car. I clung to the door and asked God for the strength to trust in the power of healthcare. I knew from my time there that the staff was top notch that was never an issue. But the nagging weight of the guilt I could not shake. There had to be a better way for moms to balance their baby’s need for care and the maternal bond that I felt I was leaving on the 4th floor.
It was those first few days that gave me the drive to make a difference and give birth to something hopeful: The Superhero Project.
Where there is a will there is always a way.
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.