Preschooler Olivia Perez just turned 2-years-old and loves to sing and dance. Seeing her so happy makes the Perez family feel like it was long ago that Olivia was hooked up to respirators and feeding tubes in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach. However, it was just two years ago. Olivia’s mother, Yolanda, had a good pregnancy - albeit high-risk. Yolanda had lived with type 1 diabetes since she was 9-years-old, but having diabetes caused her pregnancy to be high-risk from the start.
Yolanda's Regular Check-Ups & Close Monitoring
A high-risk pregnancy didn’t necessarily mean Yolanda would encounter problems during pregnancy or birth. However, women who have diabetes need close monitoring. The perinatal special care team at the MemorialCare Center for Women at Miller Children’s knew it was imperative to closely monitor Yolanda’s blood sugar and overall health.
Yolanda had regular check-ups and her pregnancy was going along well. However, one routine visit caused concern. She was immediately admitted to the MemorialCare Center for Women at just 28 weeks – 12 weeks early. The care team discovered Yolanda had high blood pressure and she was diagnosed with preeclampsia – a disorder in which a woman has high blood pressure and protein in her urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Yolanda had magnesium therapy in hopes of lowering her blood pressure. Unfortunately, after a few days of therapy, her blood pressure levels remained extremely high. They monitored her closely and kept her on bed rest in her private room.
Yolanda Delivers Olivia
Yolanda’s persistently high blood pressure combined with preeclampsia, was becoming increasingly dangerous for both Yolanda and here baby. Her situation would only worsen and the only option left was to have the baby – even if it was too early. Two days after she was admitted, they had to start the process of inducing labor immediately – three months before her due date.
Unfortunately, induction was unsuccessful and the clock was ticking to keep Yolanda and her daughter safe and healthy. Her body just wasn’t ready to give birth. After 12 hours with no improvement, they had to perform an emergency cesarean section or her condition would begin critically harming both her and her daughter.
Olivia was born at 28 weeks, weighing just 2 pounds, 11 ounces and was immediately rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Luckily, Olivia and her mother were under the same roof at Miller Children’s, so they were never far away. Yolanda recovered in the Center for Women, while Olivia was right down the hall in the NICU. The NICU care team sent her husband with pictures of her little girl, so Yolanda could see her daughter during recovery. Yolanda’s mother and husband visited both Olivia and Yolanda with ease, while the new mother and newborn were recovering and growing.
Olivia's Breakthrough Heart Surgery
Olivia needed to be put on a respirator immediately from birth. In addition to being premature from a high-risk pregnancy, Olivia had a hole in her aorta – the blood vessel through which nutrients in the blood get delivered to the organs. Olivia had to undergo surgery to fix the hole.
After her surgery, the respirator had to be replaced. Little Olivia just wasn’t quite ready to breathe on her own. A few days later, the respirator was put back on. The respirator was frequently taken off, but then had to be replaced, in a constant struggle for Olivia to breathe independently. Also, she needed to gain weight and learn to eat on her own.
Yolanda spent almost all day, everyday in the hospital with her newborn daughter. It was her full time job to be by Olivia’s side. Yolanda consistently asked members of the NICU care team at Miller Children’s questions about Olivia’s weight, her feeding, her progress and her overall health.
“Miller Children’s is the best,” says Yolanda. “I tell all the parents about our great experience – the quality care is excellent and the care team is top-notch.” Yolanda greatly appreciated the help and support from the entire care team, including perinatologist, Kathleen Berkowitz, M.D., maternal fetal specialist, medical director of the maternal transport program, who always treated Olivia like she was her only patient and top priority.
Olivia Grows Strong & Healthy
Over the next two months, Olivia learned how to feed on her own. She consistently gained weight, little by little and no longer needed the feeding tube. After 60 days and nights spent in the hospital, Olivia reached 5 pounds, the weight she needed to be to go home. The Perez family was thrilled when Olivia went home with them sooner than originally anticipated – just two months after her birth.
Today, Olivia is 2-years-old and attends preschool in Cerritos. She loves bubbles, learning new songs, singing and dancing. Developmentally, she was a bit delayed from the challenges of learning English and Spanish simultaneously. However, Olivia currently doesn’t have any developmental complications. She visits the Stramksi Children’s Developmental Center at Miller Children’s every six months, to ensure that her development remains right on track.
“She is doing awesome and she is such a fun little kid and funny,” says Yolanda. “She is petite, but you would never know she has gone through all that she has in her short life.”