Thankful for the NICU

Rena Brito, like most parents, never thought she’d need the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for her children. Her first pregnancy with her son was difficult because she was diagnosed with preeclampsia for having high blood pressure as well as other complications. Her son ended up having to be in the care of the NICU for a few days.

When she was pregnant with her second child, at 28 weeks, she went into threatened pre-term labour and had to be monitored weekly. Rena was able to get to 37 weeks before he was born. At first, doctors were going to send him to the NICU, but after some time and doing many checks, they felt he was ok to go home from the hospital.

“We thought we were done having children and then we spontaneously got pregnant with twins and I did everything I could to manifest an easy-going pregnancy,” recalls Rena.

She knew with her history, there was a risk of pre-term birth and preeclampsia, so she was very focused on trying to be as stress-free as possible to keep her blood pressure down as well as stay active and healthy.

Rena had placenta previa, a problem during pregnancy where the placenta completely or partially covers the cervix. She was monitored closely for that, and it was starting to clear, so she was hopeful for a natural birth.

She had just had a perfect ultrasound and then she started experiencing flu-like symptoms, and she assumed she had just gotten sick from her eldest son. She decided to go to South Health Campus to be checked and get some IV fluids, but when an obstetrician checked her, there were contractions on the monitor which prompted her to check Rena and saw that she was dilated.

“That’s when I started to realize this wasn’t really what should be happening at 30 weeks.”

Rena was given steroids to help boost the twin’s lung function as doctors wanted to ensure if the twins were delivered early, they’d have all the help they could get.

Rena was transferred over to Foothills Medical Centre a few hours later via ambulance as a precaution and was hopeful she would be able to go home afterwards.

“It was Saturday that I contracted all day and I thought, this wasn’t good. My mindset wasn’t that I should be going into labour. They sat my husband down and told us that we weren’t going home.”

The team of doctors told them they might need to do a stat caesarean section to get the babies out.

Luckily, Rena and her husband Matt were able to do a NICU tour at Foothills prior to her giving birth to the twins.

“The staff were nothing but supportive and phenomenal as well as incredibly calming. They made us feel like we had done so well making it so far in the pregnancy. They had the expertise to give us great advice and we knew that the babies would be in amazing care, and they would do whatever they needed to do to make sure they would be ok.”

Reassured by her visit, Rena felt much more at ease after the NICU tour. The next day, as her husband had just left the hospital to be back with her other two children, her water broke. She called him right away and he came back to the hospital. By 11 p.m., she was almost ready to give birth.

The first baby was born at 12:32 a.m. and the second baby at 12:48. In between that time, they couldn’t locate the second baby’s heartbeat which was incredibly stressful. Thankfully, the obstetrician eventually found the heartbeat and everyone in the room breathed a sigh of relief.

Once the babies were born, they were immediately brought to the NICU at Foothills and scored quite high on their Apgar scores, a test given to newborns soon after birth.

“They were both on CPAP for three or four days and then were transferred after a week to South Health Campus where they spent another 47 days at the NICU.”

Bennett was a little over three pounds and Myla was two and a half pounds, but for twins being that early, both were considered a good weight.

Being in the level 3 NICU at Foothills and seeing the other babies that were much sicker than theirs gave Rena and her husband a lot of perspective.

“I knew they were in the right place and aside from being born early, they didn’t have many complications other than eating and apnea.”

Their journey in the NICU was full of highs and lows where there would be days they’d require oxygen and then they’d be ok without it only to be put back on it again. They also had days where they’d feed well and then they’d have a setback.

“We’d have times where we’d be excited that they were ready to come home and then one would have an apnea episode and then there’d be another five days in the NICU guaranteed.”

In total, Bennett spent 52 days in the NICU and Myla spent 55 days.

“The staff were phenomenal. I jokingly say I would give birth in a broom closet there because they had so much professionalism and I can’t thank them enough for being so knowledgeable, calming and personable. They’d answer any random questions we had and were always caring and sincere.”

Rena and her entire family are participating in the Sport Chek Mother’s Day Run, Walk & Wheel this year because they want to give back to the NICU for all the excellent care and support they received.

“I feel compelled to do nothing but support the NICUs. Just having first-hand experience, you see the level of care given and the attentiveness of the staff. I saw areas that would benefit from funding.”

Rena is incredibly grateful for the care the NICU provided. The twins are now 19 months old and thriving.

Other articles you might be interested in:

We made a wish. And two came true

Caylee and Kris Dahl received the joyous news one day after many unsuccessful IVF attempts: they were pregnant with twins. But what they didn't expect was to give birth at just 27 weeks and spending the next 4 1/2 months in the NICU.

Read More
NICU care takes a village

Seventeen years have passed since Heather Bala-Edwards left the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Foothills Medical Centre with her new baby, Adam, in her arms. For Heather, it feels like a lifetime has passed since that time but reliving the memories makes it feel like yesterday for her.

Read More
We could thank them for a lifetime

Today, Blair is a bright, healthy, and vibrant young boy who recently celebrated his third birthday. But he spent the first 94 days of his life in the Foothills Medical Centre's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after being born at just 27 weeks, 4 days, weighing 1,234 grams.

Read More

Transform Healthcare
With Just a Click

When it comes to making a difference in the health of Albertans, every little bit has the potential to make a big impact – and it’s never been easier.