When we met the Jawo family to talk about Rosemarie’s birth, they were preparing to move from Ithaca to Durham, North Carolina, to be closer to family. Lori Bruce-Jawo is well known to Ithaca as the Ithaca City School District’s former chief excellence officer. Her husband, Anthony Jawo, has been staying home with Rosemarie, who is clearly thriving under his care. At nine months old she weighed eighteen pounds and was twenty-eight inches tall, which put her right on target for her age.
“She is our miracle baby,” says Lori Bruce-Jawo, describing her daughter. Born six weeks early in September 2013 and weighing a mere two pounds, 15 ounces, Rosemarie Jainaba Jawo fit into the palm of her father’s hand.
“I was forty-four years old and I had experienced several previous miscarriages,” says Bruce-Jawo. “Discovering that I was pregnant was a wonderful surprise but I was also worried.” Dr. Jose Torrado of Cayuga Women’s Health was Bruce-Jawo’s obstetrician. “I was very pleased with his care, which was important because I was anxious about the pregnancy,” she says. “I had faith in him and in the people working in his office.”
The Jawos went in for one of Lori’s regularly scheduled two-week appointments on September 10. Torrado had been watching Lori’s blood pressure, which was high due to her pregnancy. “I saw him on a Tuesday,” she recalls. “He calmly explained that because of potential complications related to my blood pressure he wanted to deliver the baby early.” The Jawos went from the doctor’s office directly to Cayuga Medical Center. “Dr. Torrado assured me that I was fine and the baby was fine and that the medical center had the capability to take care of her even though she was coming six weeks early.”
The Jawos spent the night in the hospital, while mother and baby were closely monitored. The next morning Torrado performed a Cesarean section—the baby was in the breech position—and tiny Rosemarie was born. A team of nurses and doctors attended the birth because Lori was a high-risk mother and because the baby was premature. “My husband, Tony, went over to the NICU with the baby,” says Lori. “She was little but she was feisty right from the beginning. A few hours later they took me to the NICU. As soon as I spoke to her, she perked right up and looked around because she recognized my voice. She had lots of ‘with-it-ness,’ even at that stage.”
Rosemarie’s major issues were her weight and jaundice. She was too tiny to regulate her own body temperature, so she was kept in a warm bed under special lights to protect her eyes and treat her jaundice. Her mother’s colostrum (first milk), IV fluids, and a special weight-gaining formula helped Rosemarie gain weight. “At first she was so tiny she was fed with an eyedropper like a baby bird,” says Lori.
The Jawos moved into a room next to the nursery during Rosemarie’s stay in the NICU. “The involvement of parents with babies in the NICU is very important, so we encourage parents to stay,” explains Terri MacCheyne, RN. “We offer parents courtesy rooms here for a nominal fee. Naturally, the availability of rooms for parents is based on our patient census at the time.” The ability to be so close by enabled Lori to breastfeed the baby every three hours. Both Lori and Anthony participated in daily kangaroo care, holding Rosemarie next to their bare chests to provide the skin-to-skin contact that is so beneficial for newborns, especially premature infants. “The nurses checked in on us often, answered our questions promptly, and treated us well. We felt at home,” says Anthony.
“Dr. Satish is a saint,” Lori adds, speaking of Dr. Srisatish Devapatla, neonatologist and medical director of the NICU at Cayuga Medical Center. “I can’t imagine anyone better—he has the head and the heart for this work. He believes strongly in emotional and physical bonding and feels that it is as important as the IV and the meds. We got to touch Rosemarie every three hours and it made all the difference.” Anthony adds, “I’m sure it made it all easier for Rosemarie, knowing that we were right there.”
“We had confidence and faith in the people taking care of the baby. We felt they were not only knowledgeable but they were able to communicate well with us and they cared about us,” says Lori. “This was not just about a clinical experience: they connected with the hearts and minds of our family; they anticipated what we were feeling and what we needed. Everyone understood what an emotional roller coaster we were on. I cannot imagine the anxiety of having to travel to a special care nursery out of town at a time like this,” she adds.
Three weeks after she was born, Rosemarie’s weight was up to four pounds. She was big enough to leave the hospital and the Jawo family was able to go home. “When we moved to Ithaca, we didn’t think it was possible for us to have kids,” says Lori. “I feel like Ithaca gave us our baby.”