UAB twin RNICU alumni and their parents to be March of Dimes ambassadors

The journey of one UAB RNICU inspires them to help future families.

nicu 1When Tori Anderson delivered her twins — son Charlie and daughter Sophia — at 26 weeks’ gestation July 24, 2016, she knew that she, her husband and their babies were in for a tough journey..

A pediatrican and former resident within the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Pediatrics, Anderson knew that 26-week babies often do not have great outcomes. Weighing 2 pounds each, Charlie and Sophia were immediately taken to UAB’s Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a place where, just a few years prior, Anderson had engaged in residency training. Now she was on the other side of the patient/doctor experience.

“As a pediatrician, it’s a completely different experience being on the parent side of things, and not a journey that any family expects to go through,” Anderson said. “It was stressful because, while I was first and foremost their mother, I am also a doctor and knew from my training what beeps on monitors meant, what medications and procedures were related to, and what was going to lie ahead for my family. It was certainly a rollercoaster of emotions.”

For the next five months, Anderson and her husband, Caj, were in and out of the RNICU with their newborns. While Sophia had what Anderson recalls a fairly uneventful NICU course, Charlie was sicker and required more intensive support for bowel and lung problems, receiving care at both UAB and Children’s of Alabama.

“Adding to the already difficult nature of having one baby in the NICU, it was really tough when the babies were separated between UAB and Children’s of Alabama,” Anderson recalled. “Truly, we credit our village of people, including family, friends, doctors, staff and nurses who helped during those months.”

Sophia was discharged Oct. 15, 2016, and almost two months later, brother Charlie joined her at home on Dec. 9, 2016.

Now, as Sophia and Charlie approach their third birthday later this summer and have caught up with their peers, the Anderson family has been selected as the 2019 March of Dimes of Greater Birmingham Ambassador Family leading up to its annual “March for Babies” event at Railroad Park. The event will be held Saturday, April 27.

NICUjoomla“It’s important for us to support March of Dimes because of what we were given from them while at UAB, on both an emotional and physical level,” Anderson said. “UAB is one of only 50 places in the country with a March of Dimes family support system, and that truly helped us through our NICU experience. Funds and awareness raised by March of Dimes help with resources and research that will help future pre-term babies and their families — the same research that most certainly helped Charlie and Sophia.”

At UAB, RNICU and Continuing Care Nursery families are provided educational and emotional resources from March of Dimes that help them throughout all stages of their baby’s pre-term journey. Additionally, they are also given a sense of community with activities like art classes and socializing opportunities that intend to help make mothers and fathers feel supported during their time at UAB.

In conjuction with the March for Babies walk, UAB will be hosting a family reunion that celebrates all of UAB’s “Little Stars” who have graduated from the UAB RNICU and CCN. This family-friendly event is filled with activities for all ages. Those interested can join the UAB walking team. Additionally, T-shirts are available for purchase to help to raise money for the March of Dimes.

As the event nears, Anderson reflects back on her family’s experience and why awareness of UAB’s RNICU and March of Dimes matters.

“We look back and think ‘that was us?’ The NICU really teaches you to be grateful for your child’s health and milestones, and gives you constant perspective on life,” Anderson said. “Every day, I think about how lucky we were to be at UAB; I don’t think our journey would have been quite the same had our family not been in the care of UAB.”