Main content

    Patient Stories
    Sutter Children's Center, Sacramento

    Amelia - 2.5 Months Too Early

    Amelia -
    Amelia - 2.5 Months Too Early

    As told by Amelia's dad Phil

    "Interesting", those were the first words I uttered when I found out we were pregnant. Of course, it was around 3 AM, I was at work at the fire house, which I always am when something significant happens, and Jamie had just called me to tell me the news that we were pregnant.

    After this "interesting" start there was really nothing unusual about the pregnancy, we did everything we were supposed to do. We had prenatal appointments, Jamie exercised, she followed orders, we led a happy, normal life, enjoyed every moment of it and our obstetrician saw nothing at all that was of concern. NOTHING!

    Flash forward to October 13, 2010, again, I am at work at the fire house, sleeping between calls, and it's around 3 AM. I told you things always happen while I am at work!! Jamie calls me; I don't get the call so she calls my boss who is just a couple dorm rooms down from me ...sleeping. He comes down, wakes me up, and I call Jamie.

    She tells me that she woke up with what she thinks are Braxton Hicks contractions (false contractions and of no worry) but she is going to have our next door neighbor take her in to our local hospital (Marshall Hospital in Placerville, CA as we were living in Diamond Springs, CA at the time) as they are very uncomfortable and appear to possible be increasing in severity and shortening in time between them.

    Off she goes and I stay close to the phone but remain at work. If I leave, an entire fire truck goes out of service until a replacement can be found and, at this time, we aren't sure whether I need to leave work or not.

    An hour goes by and Jamie calls back saying that Marshall Hospital states that this is definitely not false labor, they do not have the ability to handle a possible 29 week premature baby and are requesting a code 3 (lights and siren) transport ambulance to come get Jamie and transport her to Sutter Roseville Medical Center where they have a NICU and all the needed staff to handle a premature birth if necessary. Jamie has already had special medication used to stop the contractions and nothing is working.

    What!?!?! Now?!?!? Amelia is not due until December 26 but it's only October 13!!!!

    I remain at work until a replacement is contacted and arrives at work to relieve me. There really is nothing to do at this point anyway as Jamie has an hour long code 3 ride in the ambulance to get her to Sutter Roseville and I won't be able to see her right away as they have to get her checked in and figure out what's going on.

    I borrow my co-workers truck to go to the hospital as I rode in on my motorcycle and I don't need to concern myself with the getting dressed and undressed from all the gear I wear when I ride and the need to change. Hey, this is serious and I need to go so I stay in my uniform and leave!

    Once I arrive at Sutter Roseville Medical Center I talk with Jamie's obstetrician who informs me that things aren't looking good as they are unable to stop the contractions so the plan is to just do what we can to keep a delivery from happening for as long as possible until they can get some special medications on board to help "develop" our little girl's lungs a bit while she is still in Mom's womb.

    The doctor just says that every once in a while, "this just happens." There is nothing Jamie did, nothing she could do to prevent this from happening. It's just happening. And so begins our first day at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. Little did we know what our future would hold!

    All the preparations are made and we go in for an emergency c-section and Amelia Grace Challinor is born at 1239 PM on October 13, 2010. She weighs just 3 lbs, 6 oz and is no larger than the size of my outstretched hand.

    The NICU staff is there and immediately set about doing what they do as a highly specialized trained team. Amelia is whisked off to the NICU where she is placed on oxygen, monitors, IVs, and placed in a special isolette that maintains her temperature and provides her a quiet environment as close to the womb as possible.

    Amelia is too frail, her skin hyper-sensitive, her body too under-developed for us to hold her just yet. For this, we will have to agonizingly wait. And wait we do.

    Jamie is wheeled down from surgery to see our daughter as I stand, who can sit, in her room with her.

    I never left for three days. I bounced between floors and rooms; Jamie's as she recovered from her c-section and Amelia's as she struggled to learn and survive a new world she wasn't supposed to be a part of yet. On day two her weight dipped down to 2 lbs, 13 oz.

    We were told and we knew from our NICU professionals, nurses, doctors, administrators, an amazing compilation of health care professionals that made the experience bearable, that we could expect to be in the NICU for quite some time.

    Little did they or we know that this would turn out to be 119 days!!!!

    What an agonizing experience to have Jamie released from hospital after giving birth to go home with balloons but no baby. How can we leave while she remains in the NICU? This isn't how this is supposed to happen!!

    My co-worker had an RV available for us to use during our stay in the NICU. We graciously accepted his family's kind offer and set up our new "home" in the parking lot of Sutter Roseville. Several of the local greater Sacramento area hospitals have places set aside for RVs. Some have electrical hook ups, some just a place to park. Regardless of what they "offer" all we cared is that we could be close to Amelia, 24/7, for as long as we needed and as long as Amelia was in the NICU. Day in and day out as Amelia moved forward, had set backs, endured tests, etc. we lived in that RV. I commuted to work from the hospital and Jamie never left the hospital and spent all her waking time with Amelia in the NICU.

    Though there are so many more details within this 119 day time frame - medical setbacks, joys, a minor RV electrical fire, fears, friendships, etc. - it is important to know that we came in contact with Friends of NICU while there and, as a result, found a group of people that not only understood what we were going through but could help out with gas cards, a home cooked meal, a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, and to just be there as we navigated NICU life. Friends of NICU even had a group of volunteers who bought us Christmas presents!

    Finally, February 8, 2011 arrived and we were able to bring Amelia home for the first time. Jamie had returned to work as disability had run out so she was commuting from the RV, her c-section had already healed, and Amelia was now 4 months old and on this day she would FINALLY leave the hospital for the first time. We could finally start going about the business of being parents.

    I am happy to report that as of today, Amelia is perfect in every way. She has no residual effects from her early arrival or her stay in the NICU. She is going to be 20 months old on the day I start a 50CC ride from San Diego to Flordia and she is completely healthy and happy. She's running, starting to use words, playing, and doing everything a normal baby of her age does.

    Through our experience we know that there is so much need for families to be able to spend as much time as possible in the NICU and with their baby. Friends of NICU understand this and that's why they recently acquired an RV for the same purpose as what we used the RV for, to stay close and with your child as you navigate through the NICU until it's time to come home. We are looking to raise funds to purchase another RV for families to use at Sutter Roseville Medical Center and other local hospitals.

    Learn more about the Friends of the NICU.


    Back to top | More Patient Stories