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Mom hosts drive to support premature babies

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Kristen Golding, 30, is a mother to a premature son.

Although her boy recently turned two, the experiences around caring for him when he was delivered at 26 weeks has motivated her to host a Preemie Drive called Peanuts to Promise, to lend support to parents of premature babies.

Golding told the Jamaica Observer that two years ago when she found out she was pregnant, she was initially in disbelief as she was contending with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which she found out she had in 2017 and what subsequently affected her fertility.

“I had polyps, which were a result of the PCOS. I got the polyps removed early January 2018, was on medication (Metformin), changed my diet and became more active. I found out I was pregnant in the last week of April. I was in denial and took six pregnancy tests. At 24 weeks pregnant, I started to feel contractions while at work and visited a colleague of my OBGYN as my OBGYN was off that day,” she shared.

After an examination, followed by an ultrasound and hospitalisation, two weeks later her water broke. Golding was subsequently closely monitored for a few more days, before an emergency C-section was done to deliver her baby.

“Now that my amniotic sac had ruptured the foetus was more at risk for infection as the fluid is what keeps them protected. This also meant that I was at high risk for going into early labour. I was advised that the current hospital was not equipped to accommodate preterm babies.

“The next couple days saw me reaching out to several hospitals as far as Cornwall Regional to see if I could be admitted. It was not that they didn’t have any space for me, but they didn’t have any space to admit the baby as he would require additional breathing support and all the machines were currently occupied by other babies.

“Working alongside the Sagicor Foundation had me meeting several medical professionals throughout my tenure. At this point my co-worker and I were on the hunt calling everyone we knew trying to find a space anywhere we could get it. Finally, we received confirmation that I could now be accommodated at the University Hospital of the West Indies. Strict bed rest continued for an additional two weeks then I felt like something was not right,” she said.

Golding went on: “I would call the nurse every 10 minutes for her to check my temperature and the baby’s heart rate. It was always ‘Stop fret and mind yuh send up yuh pressure.’ My baby was very predictable. I knew all his cues. He was consistent with his somersaults any time I would eat or drink. But on this particular day I felt nothing. My alarm raises went ignored and were deemed as dramatic.

“The following day I informed the head consultant what I was experiencing and requested he do an blood work up immediately to check my white blood cell count (as this would signify that my body was trying to fight of an infection and remember that because my water had already broke there was no fluid to protect the baby from an infection and the simplest of infection could be deadly for the baby). At around midday he came back with the results and said, ‘Hi mommy, so it seems we are going to have to take baby now,’ that was followed by ‘I’m going to send someone to come and talk with you before you go’. He turned to the nurse and said, ‘Nurse, prep her for theatre’, then approaches the student doctor with a clipboard and what seemed to have been a “List of things to say”, as after a sentence she would pause to make a tick.”

Golding said on October 10, 2018, her son, Ty Golding, was born no bigger than a two pound bag of rice and though he was very tiny, he didn’t cry or make a sound and she didn’t get to hold him. Instead, he was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where he would spent 55 days.

Golding would go on to battle severe depression and feeling like she was not good enough. This would subsequently worsen as she was placed on the postnatal ward with other mothers who had their babies in tow.

“Every time I heard a baby cry I would break down. The thought of killing myself crossed my mind several times. I didn’t want to be visited and I could not muster up the courage to visit my son in the NICU for the first five days of his life. My husband realised what I was going through mentally and did his part to ensure that he was there for both me and the baby. It took him convincing me that we were going for a walk and then tricking me and taking me into the NICU for me to find the strength to look at my baby for the first time. I made significant bonds with lots of parent who shared the same fate as I, as we bonded several of our similar struggles,” she said. “We spent 55 days in the NICU. We battled through numerous blood transfusions, bacterial infections, collapsed veins, but with the grace of God in the end we got to take our baby home on December 5. He could fit in the palm of one of our hands.”

This string of activities, Golding told the Sunday Observer, is what has led her to want to help other parents like herself.

“I remember the constant struggle of having to find stores that sold preemie pampers as they were very scarce or even clothes that would fit him. Then there was the pumping breast milk for a baby that you can’t even hold in your arms, having to buy breast milk bags very other day as you run through maybe eight a day and there was also the difficulty to lactate as technically your body wasn’t ready to have a baby so it’s not producing milk,” she said.

Peanuts to Promise aims to provide materials such as preemie diapers, breast milk bags, blood oxygen monitors, pulse oximeters, thermometers, preemie formula, among other well-needed items to help preemie parents cope better. In addition, Golding is working with the Preemie Foundation and Women’s Health Network to launch a breast milk bank in Jamaica.

“Being a preemie parent is difficult especially in COVID-19. The NICU basically trained you to think that germs are bad. Hand washing and sanitising is nothing new for a preemie parent. At least COVID has shown everyone else how important it is too. Being a preemie parent is also difficult because you are extra particular and sensitive with baby milestones. The walking, the talking, the teeth coming up are usually a little later than regular babies, so you are basically playing catch up to kids born full term. It adds a lot of pressure on you as a parent, because it is always in the back of your mind that something may be wrong with his development. [And] NICU living doesn’t really end when you are discharged. There is what is called prem clinic where the hospital does checks on the baby’s development. Is he putting on enough weight? Is he meeting his development milestones? The sitting up and so on,” she said.

Persons wanting to donate have the option of reaching out to the Preemie Foundation of Jamaica or leaving items at the Sigma Secretariat at Sagicor’s head office.

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