Jess Movold was 26 weeks into her pregnancy when she felt an odd sensation: tightness and pressure, as if the baby were sitting too low. Just to be safe, she and her husband, Kyle Fields, headed to NYU Langone’s Tisch Hospital.
Jess was leaking amniotic fluid, a condition known as preterm premature rupture of membranes that has a high risk of triggering preterm labor. Jess was admitted, and five days later, on April 1, 2022, Battle Fields was born. He weighed just over 1 pound.
As it turned out, he was exactly where he needed to be: the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Tisch Hospital, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone. Like most parents, Jess and Kyle never expected their baby to need advanced care. But it is estimated that 9 to 13 percent of infants born in the United States require NICU-level services. “Battle had complications of prematurity that we were able to address—and the resources available at our Level 4 NICU/Regional Perinatal Center—the highest level possible—were a big part of that,” says neonatologist Purnahamsi V. Desai, MD, medical director of the NICU at Tisch Hospital.
Planning Begins Before Birth
As soon as a patient like Jess is admitted, everyone springs to action, including the maternal–fetal medicine specialists who manage high-risk pregnancies, the neonatologists who care for premature infants, and numerous nurses and support staff.
“When a person’s water breaks early, they often deliver within the next seven days. But there are things we can do to try to improve the outcome for both mom and baby,” explains Ashley S. Roman, MD, a maternal–fetal medicine specialist and chief of obstetrics at Tisch Hospital. Jess received antibiotics to delay labor, magnesium sulfate to protect the baby’s brain, and steroid injections to promote lung development, lower the risk of bleeding in the brain, and protect the intestines.
“The moment one of the doctors said, ‘Hey, Dad, say hi to your son,’ I knew Battle was in good hands. This is what they do: heal sick babies.”
—Kyle Fields, Battle’s Dad
When Battle’s arrival could be held off no longer, the care team gently wrapped the improbably small infant in plastic to keep his skin moist and reduce heat loss. He was immediately taken to the NICU. “The moment one of the doctors said, ‘Hey, Dad, say hi to your son,’ I knew Battle was in good hands,” says Kyle. “This is what they do: heal sick babies.”
Advanced Respiratory and Cardiac Care for the Tiniest Infants
“Walking into the NICU, we felt at peace,” Jess recalls. The couple took solace in the staff’s warmth, positivity, and expertise. “These people were prepared,” Kyle added.
Battle needed high-tech ventilator support to help his lungs develop and grow. The NICU at Tisch Hospital provides different types of mechanical ventilation, from devices that mimic natural breathing patterns to those that are even gentler on the lungs. “We were able to adapt the type of support we were giving him based on his needs,” says Dr. Desai.
Battle received medication to close an opening in his heart, a common defect in premature babies known as patent ductus arteriosus, and surgery to treat retinopathy of prematurity, which can lead to blindness.
“These doctors know what’s possible, take calculated risks, and always have a backup plan. The people are the magic of the NICU.”
—Jess Movold, Battle’s Mom
From the parents’ point of view, the most intense moment occurred the day neonatologist Sourabh Verma, MD, recommended removing Battle’s breathing tube. “It was such an amazing moment of trust,” says Jess. Battle would have to breathe on his own, something he had not done since shortly after birth. That’s where Dr. Verma’s judgment came in, Jess says. “These doctors know what’s possible, take calculated risks, and always have a backup plan. The people are the magic of the NICU.”
Managing Life in the NICU
Most days, Jess and Kyle joined daily rounds with the clinicians, therapists, and support staff who gave an update of Battle’s status. Any questions they had were answered, and they were always involved in every care decision.
“These are exceptional humans who know exactly what their mission is, and they cared for our tiny infant the same way they would care for their own children,” says Kyle.
Jess and Kyle were encouraged to help with feedings, diaper changes, and tummy time. Together they celebrated every occasion and milestone, from Battle learning to roll over to his first real bath.
And then there were the small moments made possible by Sala Institute for Child and Family Centered Care, which supports services such as music therapy for all patients, including the smallest. “When the music therapist sang and played her guitar, it was such a bonding moment for all three of us,” says Jess. “Battle really responded to it, but we did, too.”
Battle spent 167 days in the NICU and is now a curious, chatty toddler. “He’s so social,” says Kyle. “We think that being in the NICU made him really comfortable with people and the world around him.”
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