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Winslet, 3 mos.

Richmond | Services: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

When it became clear that Winslet Sears was going to be born significantly prematurely, her parents, Jacqueline and Andy, did not know what to expect. They did know, however, that they wanted their daughter to be at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR).

“We picked CHoR because it is part of an academic medical center on the forefront of best practices,” Jacqueline explained. “The facility really impressed me with its private rooms, and I also responded to their culture of family-centered care. My second son was born early at 33 weeks and from past experience I knew what I needed from a NICU, as a mother and for my baby.”

Jacqueline spent several weeks in the hospital following a protocol to delay labor for as long as possible, and Winslet was born at just under 26 weeks gestation, weighing only two pounds and measuring 12 and a half inches long. Before Winslet was intubated to help her underdeveloped lungs function, the team worked to make sure Jacqueline could hold her baby girl right after birth, an experience that could last only 45 seconds but was transformative for Jacqueline.

Winslet spent 80 days in the NICU and her family, including older brothers Roscoe and Merritt, was encouraged to spend as much time as possible with her during those long and sometimes difficult weeks. Kangaroo care, involving skin-to-skin contact, was integral to their daily routine beginning on Winslet’s second day of life.

“Beyond all the technology and research into best practices, the human side of the NICU should also be celebrated,” Jacqueline said. “The staff care for the babies, of course, but also the parents. Their experience and skill, their compassion and kindness, everything they did for us—it all added up and made the difference for our daughter and little sister. Winslet is whole and perfect because of the care we received. I truly don’t believe she would have had this outcome had we been anywhere else.

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