November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Read one family’s story of perseverance after a premature delivery.  

One minute Jocelyn Park was welcoming her daughter into the world, and the next they were both fighting for their lives.

Months before, Jocelyn’s pregnancy had triggered flare-ups of past medical conditions and she also had a heart condition called cardiomyopathy. Despite these setbacks, her pregnancy advanced normally and she was even released from a high risk pregnancy program.

One night, Jocelyn noticed some spotting and immediately went to the hospital in her hometown of Beaver, Pennsylvania. During her examination, Jocelyn’s water broke and the doctors had to deliver her baby immediately. Within minutes, Jocelyn’s daughter, Lily, was born. Lily was two months early and weighed only 3 lbs. 13 oz.

The happiest moment in Jocelyn’s life quickly turned serious. Immediately after giving birth, Jocelyn experienced postpartum heart failure linked to her heart condition and became unresponsive. “I gave Lily a kiss on the forehead then I don’t remember anything,” she said.

Because the hospital did not have the capabilities to provide the neonatal care Lily required, she was flown to Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC which has a Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Jocelyn eventually regained consciousness but had to stay in the Beaver hospital for four days. Jocelyn was separated from her new daughter. “It was so difficult. I missed some of those first moments,” Jocelyn said.

Lily in the NICU

Thankfully, Jocelyn was able to watch Lily through Magee’s NICVIEW camera system, a 24/7 secure video system that allows family to view their newborns. “I would watch her while I was in the hospital. I got to see her father pick her up for the very first time. It was nice to at least see those things since I couldn’t physically be there,” she said.

Eventually Jocelyn was discharged and was able to visit her daughter.  Juggling the emotional toll of having her child in the NICU and her own medical struggles was difficult, but Jocelyn had a strong support system. “Everyone at Magee was so amazing. If it wasn’t for the staff, I wouldn’t have made it through. I felt very sick and had a huge incision. In addition to caring for my daughter, the nurses kept checking on me and encouraged me to rest so I could get better,” she said.

The 28 days that Lily was in the NICU was a tough time for Jocelyn and her family. “At certain points, I felt really hopeless. I just kept wondering if she would ever be ready to come home.” Her hope came back the moment she finally got to hold her. “When I finally could hold her for a longer period of time, I realized that everything was going to be okay,” Jocelyn explained.

Jocelyn remembers Lily’s discharge day as one of the best days of her life. “She was discharged the day before Mother’s Day and a few days before my birthday. It was a wonderful gift,” she said.

Lily a Magee NICU graduate
Today, Lily is 18 months old, healthy, and climbing on everything.

Jocelyn is very thankful for the Magee staff and experience. “The staff takes the time to talk to you. There is no hidden agenda. They would talk about my daughter in front of us and made us a part of everything. The kindness at Magee is incredible,” she said.

Jocelyn wanted to share her story to give hope to other families facing prematurity. “Lily is healthy today and now I just want to help give back to other mothers going through the same thing. These kids are strong and they can overcome the obstacles in front of them. Lily is proof.”

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