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Emilee's Story


The hospital quickly became a second home for Stephanie, whose daughter Emilee was transferred to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children three short days after she was born. Stephanie gave birth to Emilee at her hometown hospital, Reading Hospital, at the end of July. Unfortunately, Emilee was born a few weeks early, which made her unprepared for the tasks ahead of her. These tasks often, taken for granted by healthy full term infants, can be problematic for premature infants regardless of age and size. Emilee had an exceptional group of physicians at the Reading Hospital NICU who battled day and night to facilitate her transition from life in the womb to one independent of her mother. Following 72 hours of escalating support, her physicians realized that maximum medical support had been offered and Emilee’s best chance of survival was with their pediatric partners at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

Emilee’s lungs did not tolerate the transition from intrauterine life to birth, and were now failing despite maximum medical therapy. Within three hours of arrival at St. Christopher’s, the team concluded that Emilee’s team at Reading had done all that was medically possible and her only chance was to place her on ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.) This required surgery. She was promptly placed on ECMO to allow her strained heart and lungs time to rest and recover while performing their vital functions. Stephanie, her husband and their twelve-year-old son came together as a family to get through this difficult time, never losing faith in Emilee’s recovery.

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Following a brief period of rest (on ECMO), Emilee’s failing organs were back to normal function and she was promptly taken off ECMO and transitioned to breathing support only. In a few days, Emilee would transition from requiring a breathing tube to CPAP, and then breathing on her own. With breathing spontaneously now mastered, the team turned their attention to feeding.  Initially, this was achieved through a feeding tube, but within a short period she demonstrated mastering this function to her parent’s delight. Emilee’s team included neonatologists, surgeons, pastoral services, clinical pharmacists, respiratory therapist, ECMO team, physical therapists, cardiologists, radiologists, child life specialists, social workers and a dedicated nursing staff. Although Emilee was only a few days old, she showed a great amount of resilience and strength. Throughout this exhausting process, Emilee’s dedicated team of doctors and nurses utilized the benefits of the NICU to deliver quality, family- centered care.  

“Dr. Menkiti was knowledgeable throughout Emilee’s entire journey. He not only cared about my daughter’s well-being, but also my family’s,” Stephanie explained. “Dr. Menkiti would genuinely ask us how he could help our family outside of answering any of the medical questions we had.”

“I feel honored that Stephanie and her family allowed our team be part of her medical care and life. Although our patients come in different sizes and severity of illness, they all teach us something and always leave a mark in our hearts,” explained Oge Menkiti, MD, Medical Director, Regional Fetal Evaluation Center, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. “Our team is much better today because of Emilee and her loving family. We will never forget her. I pray Stephanie and her family enjoy Emilee for decades to come.”

“The Reading NICU team met Emilee at a time when her condition was just unfolding. It was tough to see her needing more and more intensive support with little improvement. Before we would actually exhaust all medical options, which had the potential to delay what clearly was becoming the next possible and best option for her,” explained Nick Obiri, MD, Chief, Section of Neonatology, Reading Hospital.  “Due to Emilee’s critical condition, we decided it was best for her to be at a place that could offer a higher level of support. St Christopher’s Hospital for Children has been our close partner for subspecialty and other higher NICU care, so it became the logical next step for us. Seeing how quickly and decisively Emilee was transitioned to ECMO and her rapid improvement following a short period of lung rest has reassured all of us in the timeliness of our decision. I wish the family all the best.”

Before Emilee was released from the hospital, Stephanie was able to start feeding her. She fed Emilee multiple times a day, which was a milestone in their brand new relationship. Emilee was released from the hospital at the end of August and Stephanie and her family were ecstatic to finally bring their baby girl home. Stephanie and her family have a passion for the great outdoors and any adventurous summer activities. Like most twelve year old boys, her son enjoys playing sports, especially basketball. After nearly a month at St. Christopher’s, Emilee returned home to a loving family as a healthy, lively newborn.

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