Within 48 hours, Jessica Horwatt went from thinking she had a cold during her pregnancy to delivering her baby girl at only 27 weeks. The nursery wasn’t ready. Jessica hadn’t even had her baby shower yet.

It all began when Jessica experienced some common cold symptoms. During a scheduled appointment, her doctor noticed that Jessica’s blood pressure was high and sent her to Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC for further testing.

At Magee, she was diagnosed with a very severe form of preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication, and was admitted. An ultrasound showed that her baby was in the lowest five percent for size.

After meeting with Maternal-Fetal Medicine physicians, it was determined that she would need an emergency C-section. Jessica’s family rushed to be by her side. “I was really scared, but the high-risk pregnancy team walked me through what was ahead of us.  They reassured me,” she said.

Jessica’s daughter Rylee was born weighing only 1 pound, 8 ounces, and only 13 ½ inches long. Rylee was immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Jessica and her husband live more than 30 minutes away from Magee, but they made daily visits to see their baby girl during Pennsylvania’s snowiest months.  Jessica remembers, “One time it took us over two and a half hours to get to the hospital in the snow. We were determined to see her no matter what.”

Despite her small size, Rylee thrived in the NICU. She just needed to grow and put on weight. It took 75 days for Rylee to reach 5 pounds when she was finally able to go home with her parents.

More than gratitude…

Rylee Horwatt

Jessica is eternally grateful to the nurses who took care of her daughter. “I can’t say enough about the nurses. I just want to thank them for taking care of our daughter. Without those nurses, she would not be where she is today.”

Rylee is about to turn 3 years old. She is still tiny for her age but her personality is anything but small according to her mom. “Rylee is a pistol. She is so independent and has such a big personality. She’s a happy little girl,” Jessica said.

To show her appreciation, Jessica gave back through a United Way donation. “I’ve always donated every year. When I found out that the Magee NICU had a code, there was no question. I had to donate to them. I’ve been encouraging my friends and family to donate as well and sharing what a special place Magee is.”

To make a Allegheny County United Way donation to the Magee NICU, please use code 944.  If you have any questions, please contact Megan Sheesley at 412-641-8972.