Cynthia Courtney's Story
We were living 350 miles from here, I was 29 weeks pregnant and we had come to Maryland for my baby shower. After not feeling the baby move all day, I called my doctor in New York. She told me to get to the hospital right away, and we headed from Reisterstown to GBMC. That was the night of July 27, 1997.
My blood pressure had spiked out of control, and within a few hours, doctors determined that I had HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet counts) and needed an emergency C-section. My husband and I were overwhelmed, panicking and scared. By the time we realized what was happening, I was being rolled into surgery. To this day, that experience is a blur. By the time I woke up, I was in a hospital room looking at a Polaroid photo of a tiny baby covered in wires and tubes. On it, it said, "Noah - 3 hours." When my husband returned I asked, "Is he alive?" He told me our baby weighed two pounds, six ounces and was in the NICU. At that point I didn't even know what those initials stood for. Today, I know those initials stand for life.
For the next 10 weeks we "lived" in the NICU. Each and every person there became our family. Karen Starr and Lynn Wilson during the day, Joe at night and, of course, Dr. Helou, whose honesty gave us hope. Each individual was a lifeline in this new world into which we were thrust. They were with us every step of the way - teaching, guiding, comforting and caring. I mention these names, but there were so many more.
As anyone who has been in the NICU knows, our days were filled with ups and downs – a true roller coaster of emotions – but each day, as I was buzzed in I breathed a little easier knowing how well Noah was being taken care of – on the bad days as well as the good. It was hard being so far from home. My husband would work for four days and then come to Baltimore for three, and whether he was calling the NICU or getting into town in the middle of the night, the NICU staff always gave him updates and let him in to see Noah. We looked forward to the little things they did, too. They made signs that celebrated Noah’s milestones, brought me tea when I was too exhausted to move and got me in to see another GBMC doctor when I developed a blood clot in my leg. I can't say enough about each and every person there.
When we finally were able to return to New York, Karen would call to check in and was always there when I needed a second opinion about Noah's follow-up care. We didn't have a lot of money at the time, but we thanked the staff by donating a piece of art with the Shel Silverstein poem “Listen To The Mustn’ts” to give hope to future NICU families.
Eight years later, after attending several NICU reunions, we moved back to Maryland. Within a year or two, Noah was raising money for – and participating in – the Father's Day 5K run. He got to know the people who were responsible for him being alive, and began to understand how fortunate he was that we delivered at this amazing hospital.
Today, Noah is a senior at Bel Air High School and is planning to attend the United States Coast Guard Academy at New London. He is captain of the varsity swim team and was recently cast as Bert, the leading male role in the Mary Poppins musical. He's come a long way. It’s pretty amazing to think about how many lives he will save because, on a hot summer night in 1997, the staff at GBMC saved him.
Was it easy? No way – not for us, and not for Noah. But, because of the strong support he had from day one, when the nurses nicknamed him "Little Attitude Boy," Noah has fought back . . . and thrived.
Thank you GBMC, from the bottom of our hearts. I can't begin to imagine how different our lives could have been if it weren't for all of you. We are truly blessed.