Family Gives Back to the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital NICU That Saved Their Daughter

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Family Gives Back to the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital NICU That Saved Their Daughter

Since graduating from the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit in July 2020, Megan Siever — along with husband Coleman and now 2-year-old Isla — are giving back to the facility that saved their lives. Megan and Isla visited the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital in April 2022 to donate care packages to all NICU families and bring pizza to the medical team.

Isla’s life started out here, in the plastic bassinet where all premature babies receive life-saving care. Now, she’s joyfully running around the lobby and eagerly greeting people she sees.

Complete care for high-risk pregnancy close to home

As soon as she learned she was pregnant, Megan knew that she needed to get the best care possible for herself and her baby. That's why she chose Oklahoma Children’s Hospital.

Megan had previously decided that her chosen path to parenthood would be through fostering or adopting. In fact, during a visit with her endocrinologist to manage her Type 1 diabetes, her doctor even commented that based on her bloodwork results, it wouldn't be possible to carry a pregnancy. Still, Megan was taking birth control and never missed a pill. Based on this, she thought it was impossible to become pregnant.

And yet, in October 2019, she found out she was pregnant.

"We joke and say Isla was an absolute fighter from conception," said Megan. "It wasn't supposed to be possible for her to be here, but she is; she fought to be here."

Oklahoma Children's is one of the first hospitals in the nation to offer complete care for mother and baby in a single facility. Here, her baby benefited from the extensive expertise of a multidisciplinary team skilled at caring for high-risk pregnancies and innovative technology used to closely monitor and care for her and the baby throughout the pregnancy.

An expert prenatal care team ready for anything

In March 2020 — as the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep across the country — Megan's blood pressure was dangerously high, so she was hospitalized at The obstetrics ER at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City.

The goal was to help Megan's body hold on as long as possible to keep the baby growing because Isla was too small to intubate at the time.

"I was so swollen I could barely open my eyes. The medical team did everything possible, and I felt great about the level of care I received," said Megan. "But it was a tough situation. We were doing everything we could to get her big enough to survive outside the womb."

The close watchful eyes and capable, steady hands of the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital high-risk pregnancy team brought them both as far as they could.

But Megan's body wasn't responding to the blood pressure medications, so Megan and her medical team knew it was time to take the baby.

Isla was born on March 21, 2020, 100 days before her due date. Lauren White, DO, a neonatologist, delivered Isla, who came into the world with eyes wide open, staring up at the doctors who helped get her tiny body to this point. She was small, weighing just 16.6 oz, but they could intubate her.

Isla's Oklahoma Children's Hospital NICU journey begins

After giving birth to Isla, Megan began her recovery journey as doctors continued to closely monitor her blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Isla was just an elevator ride away in Oklahoma's only Level IV neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which provides the highest level of neonatal care in the state, so Megan could see her baby and feel comforted knowing that she was close.

Six days after she was born, her medical team discovered Isla had necrotizing enterocolitis — a serious intestinal disease among premature babies that caused intestinal perforation — and would require emergency surgery.

Before her surgery, Oklahoma Children's Hospital chaplains baptized Isla. Her team, led by Douglas Dannaway, M.D., neonatologist, worked skillfully and carefully. The surgery was a success. Isla was on the mend.

Meanwhile, Isla's medical team continued to keep her alive and growing amid many sepsis episodes, which threatened to regress any progress made. She was not quite two pounds yet, which she needed to be for necessary heart surgery. But the surgery couldn’t wait. It was risky since she was so small, but there was no alternative to keep her alive. Harold Burkhart, M.D, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, performed her surgery, during which he discovered additional lung issues that he was able to resolve without having to perform a separate, additional surgery on little Isla.

Oklahoma Children's Hospital NICU team is like family

Isla was showing good progress by the time she was 2 months old. Megan and the NICU medical team decided to extubate Isla and give her a chance to breathe on her own with hopes of getting one step closer to bringing Isla home.

Once again, everyone held their breath while rooting for Isla. But Isla wasn't quite ready to breathe independently, so her medical team reintubated her.

Through all the ups and downs of being a NICU parent and navigating life during the COVID-19 pandemic, Megan developed close relationships with Isla’s providers, many of which grew into lasting friendships. She trusted the NICU team completely to collaborate with her to ensure Isla had the best care possible.

"The NICU can feel isolating anyway and being a NICU parent during COVID is completely isolating because support systems were (understandably) cut out," said Megan. "Our doctors, nurses and therapists became our support system. I can't speak highly enough of the facility and team. There's no place we'd rather be. I think that speaks a lot considering we're from Houston, a place with some of the best hospitals in the country."

While the doctors and medical team worked 24/7 to keep Isla alive and help her begin to thrive, Megan did everything she could to help her NICU baby. She channeled her worry into action, which helped keep feelings of helplessness at bay.

"When your baby is that small and sick, physically touching them can hurt them. I felt so helpless," said Megan. "I'm her mom, but I can't save her. So what can I do? I can be her mom. I read so many books to her while she lay in her incubator. I brought cute sheets and blankets for her bed and decorated her tiny head in bows.”

Even in situations where Megan was holding her breath, she knew that Isla was getting the best care possible from the NICU team at Oklahoma Children's Hospital. This fact helped her breathe a little bit easier, even though Isla’s journey in the NICU still wasn’t over.

When Isla suddenly stopped breathing, her watchful nurse Allison Despain, called the doctors immediately. The advanced medical capabilities of the NICU and highly skilled team worked tirelessly to get Isla stable again, all while keeping Megan informed and updated.

"I'm just so grateful for the OU NICU team," said Megan. "I always knew they were doing everything to help Isla."

Isla left the NICU and went home 130 days after she was born.

Life beyond the NICU

Isla is two years old now. She's graduated from all her therapies. Things are settling into a new kind of routine for her family. She's taking gymnastics and swim lessons, going to the park, visiting the Tulsa Children's Museum, taking trips to Disney World, meeting family and friends — doing all the things she couldn't do for so long.

Now that they could catch their breath, Megan and Coleman knew they wanted to give back to the NICU that helped Isla live.

"These people mean so much to us and helped us during extreme stress and trauma, so I want to help them and other NICU families in a meaningful way," said Megan.

So she began talking with her NICU nurse friends about ways to help and contacted a member of the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Child Life & Therapeutic Programs team. Megan wanted to give other NICU parents some comfort and support, so she donated 120 care packages — enough for the whole NICU unit — that included a onesie, beanie or bow, book and blanket, just like the things she brought Isla during her NICU journey.

She also brought Hall's Pizza for both day and night shift nurses.

"We were so happy to be able to do this. The NICU team poured so much into Isla, which poured into me. We wanted to do something to show our appreciation and gratitude for this amazing team," said Megan.

After delivering the generous donations and seeing the NICU team and other families, Megan feels even more excited to continue giving back and making a positive difference.

Megan's advice to other NICU parents: Take it day by day, minute by minute. Get to know and appreciate your providers because they're doing something you, as a parent, cannot.

"I may have given Isla life, but the NICU team at Oklahoma Children's Hospital are the ones who made her live," said Megan. “There’s no place we’d rather receive care.”

Make a donation to the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital NICU today.