The Morris Family
"We know that he’s alive and thriving because of all the experts at MedStar Georgetown, and we will be forever grateful.”
Antony was born a micro-preemie at just 23 weeks, weighing in at 1 lb. 7 oz. Thanks to our Level 4 NICU, he is thriving! Read below the Morris' family journey and how there son Antony is continuing to grow into a strong little boy.
The Fardshisheh Twins
"Those doctors and nurses in the NICU–it's not just about medicine for them. Their care is deeply personal."
Erin Fardshisheh gave birth to her twins Finn and Farrah unexpectedly at 34 weeks. Learn how the care they received in the MedStar Georgetown Level 4 NICU provided their family with the support they needed along with the most advanced treatment capabilities.
"I live out each day as a walking, breathing miracle.”
Kenya Lewis weighed just 1 pound, 9 ounces when she was born 15 1/2 weeks early in 1996, struggling with every breath. Kenya was transported to MedStar Georgetown where she was admitted to the NICU and treated with an advanced piece of lifesaving equipment called a high frequency jet ventilator.
“It is still so vivid. He was so unbelievably small and fragile. We are incredibly grateful to the NICU.”
Nick spent the first 100 days of his life in MedStar Georgetown’s NICU and Perinatal Center. His Georgetown journey came full circle in May 2016. Having first graduated from the MedStar Georgetown NICU in 1994, he graduated from Georgetown University in 2016.
The Morris Family
Formula for Success: Providence, Experience and Expertise
Frustration and disappointment had plagued Nicole and Antony Morris’s quest for a child of their own. Just 41, in “pregnancy years” Nicole was considered an older woman. After several heartbreaking close calls, the Morris’s began to research options. “I started reading all I could and my husband and I decided that IVF was the right choice for us,” she says.
Their hopes were not misplaced. In July 2015 after just one attempt, Nicole was happily pregnant. The pregnancy moved along uneventfully. A sonogram confirmed that the Morris’s were having a boy and by November, Nicole was feeling every kick and flutter.
When she felt some cramping while at work in late November, she paid little attention. But while on her way home, the cramps felt more like pain. “Then it was hurting so much, I was having trouble driving,” Nicole remembers. She called her husband and mother—both out of town at the time—and drove herself to a close by hospital in Northern Virginia.
“I got to emergency, ran in leaving the car running, and announced to the nurse, ‘I’m in labor.’” At just 22 weeks, giving birth was precarious. And the hospital wasn’t equipped to care for such a preterm newborn.
As family and friends gathered at the hospital, Nicole’s labor increased and when her water broke they were cautioned to expect the worst. Then a benevolent stranger intervened. “A doctor—I don’t know who—heard about my situation and simply said, ‘why don’t you transport her to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital,’” Nicole says. “He was our saving grace.”
Extensive Know-How for Tiny Babies
Nicole arrived by ambulance at MedStar Georgetown where she was met by a multidisciplinary Neonatal Intensive Care team, which began a complete assessment of her condition. “I felt safe and cared for right away,” Nicole says.
“Ms. Morris was in preterm labor at less than 23 weeks gestation, when it was unclear if her baby would even be able to live outside the womb, given his extreme immaturity,” explains Neonatologist Jayashree Ramasethu, MD. “We discussed all possible outcomes with her. She is a remarkable lady with courage and grace in a very difficult situation.”
“Although they were preparing for delivery, they told me it would be best to hang in a few days until Sunday when I would be 23 weeks along. Twenty-four weeks would be even better. I began to feel less pain and I bathed and ate. I was much relieved and thought I might be there for weeks.”
But her baby boy had other plans. On Saturday night, labor increased and Nicole developed a fever. A C-Section was scheduled for Sunday. “I was exactly at 23 weeks to the day,” says Nicole.
On December 6, Antony K. Morris, II, was born weighing just 1 lb. 7 oz. “He was so small my husband’s index finger was the size of Antony’s arm. But the team thought he was a good weight and he was breathing fairly well.”
Nicole wasn’t able to hold her newborn that day or for more than a month. He was whisked away to the hospital’s state-of-the-art NICU, which would be his home for months.
“Everyone was amazing,” Nicole says. “I was frightened, but I also felt very confident that Antony was in the best place possible.”
During the next few months, the Morris’s and Antony rode a roller coaster of highs and lows. He had chronic lung disease and was intubated to support his breathing, and received intravenous nutrition and medication via a central line in his chest. He required blood transfusions and a feeding tube.
“His birth and care was a team effort,” Dr. Ramasethu says. “Neonatologists, neonatal nurses, pediatric surgeons, pediatric cardiologists, respiratory therapists, nutrition experts, occupational and physical therapists and, of course Mommy, were all on ‘Team Momo.’”
The NICU team encouraged Nicole to care for her newborn son. “I wanted to do what any other mother would,” she says. “The nurses and doctors were incredible. I was there every day eager to learn everything I could. I became his full time provider handling ‘nursing’ duties.”
Early on Nicole expressed her milk so Antony could experience its benefit. But soon a serious problem emerged. “He wasn’t passing stool and tests showed that he had a condition called necrotizing endocolitis,” Nicole explains. Portions of his bowel tissue were dead and stool was seeping into his abdomen. Antony needed surgery to remove these sections and create a functioning intestine. It would be the first of several procedures to correct the problem.
Antony proved his mettle, and on June 29, 2016, he went home, weighing in at 11 lbs. “Through the whole process, Antony and his family became part of the Georgetown Family. When he left the NICU, we cried and cheered,” Dr. Ramasethu says.
He was still tethered to a nasal cannula for additional oxygen, and required a feeding tube, heart monitor, TPN and lipid machine that supplied nutrition through a Broviac medically inserted in his chest. For weeks, the Morris’s slept with Antony on the floor because his crib couldn’t accommodate the technology he still required.
Happily over time, Antony grew stronger and by October he was eating whole food like any other baby. At 16 months, he weighed a robust 22 lbs.
“At one year, we went to Georgetown for his developmental assessment with Dr. Valentine,” says Nicole. “He told us that Antony is very likely to catch up to his peers. He also told us that not many micro-preemies like Antony survive. We know that he’s alive and thriving because of all the experts at Georgetown, and we will be forever grateful.”
The Fardshisheh Twins
Erin Fardshisheh says her pregnancy with twins was totally normal…until suddenly one day it wasn’t because her blood pressure and liver enzymes became elevated and her blood platelets dropped. These circumstances didn’t put her babies in danger, but did present great risk to Erin’s health and at 34 weeks, she learned she would require an emergency delivery. It was shocking news for Erin and her husband Ali who hadn’t even named their twins yet.
“We thought we had more time. It was all very unexpected,” Erin says. “My overwhelming feeling having the twins in such a dramatic, stressful fashion was fear. But we did always feel we were in good hands with the incredible physicians and nurses at Georgetown.”
The Fardshisheh twins were delivered January 18, 2016 at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and immediately taken to the NICU because they were premature and having difficulty breathing. “I was trying to stay calm but they didn’t sound like robust screaming babies and that is when I started to get nervous,” Erin says.
“If your pregnancy is high-risk, our Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is the best, safest place for you and your child,” explains Siva N. Subramanian, MD, Neonatology Division Chief. “Our doctors, nurses, therapists and support staff specialize in taking care of the most complicated, fragile, critically ill mothers and babies right after birth and we have the most advanced treatment capabilities to handle whatever medical emergencies develop.”
Erin says the NICU also has extraordinary staff who helped her and Ali every step of the way. “Those doctors and nurses in the NICU - it’s not just about medicine for them. Their care is deeply personal,” Erin says.
The Bethesda resident says that was especially obvious for her family at the three-week mark when Farrah was struggling to eat so a nurse moved the twins together into the same incubator bed for the first time.
“It was this incredible warm and fuzzy moment. They were facing each other, snuggled up and sleeping. The nurse walked over and said – ‘Erin, they are stronger together. I hope you always remember that truth.’ I ended up writing that on the first page of their baby book because it moved me so much,” she says.
Finn and Farrah both spent about a month in the NICU. They were sent home on breathing monitors and were slightly delayed in their milestones for a while. But they regularly saw doctors through MedStar Georgetown NICU’s transitional services and by the age of 2, the children had both completely caught up.
“This whole experience does give you a unique appreciation and gratitude for every milestone. Our children are happy and healthy and we don’t take anything for granted,” Erin says. “We’re so grateful to the doctors and nurses in the NICU. They taught us to be parents and got us through one of the hardest times of our lives. It’s something we will never forget.”
Thanks to Neonatal Intensive Care, a Fragile Infant Grows to a Fearless Adult
Kenya Lewis weighed just 1 pound, 9 ounces when she was born 15 1/2 weeks early in 1996, struggling with every breath. Doctors at the Washington, D.C., hospital where she was delivered put her on a conventional ventilator, but that damaged her extremely immature lungs. After 2 1/2 weeks, her prognosis looked grim.
“The doctors and nurses had lost all hope for my survival and asked my parents if a priest could be called to give last rites,” Kenya explains. “My parents said no.”
Instead, Ken and Rosemary Lewis asked for their daughter to be transported to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital where she was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and treated with an advanced piece of lifesaving equipment called a high frequency jet ventilator. It was set to breathe 400 breaths per minute and helped heal the tears in her lungs.
Over the next 105 days, Kenya stabilized and grew. She weighed over four pounds when she was discharged. She still required oxygen and a variety of therapies, but she was on the road to recovery. In time, she was breathing on her own and flourishing. “She was one of the most difficult cases I’ve seen come through our NICU, and she has done so well, in spite of the challenges and problems she had at birth,” says Siva Subramanian, MD, MedStar Georgetown’s division chief of Neonatology.
Just 4'9" for most of her youth, Kenya took part in a variety of sports including swimming and basketball. She learned to play five instruments, discovered a passion for writing, and recently graduated from college. Now 22 years old and 5'2" tall, she shared her life story at a reunion of MedStar Georgetown NICU patients, a yearly event that brings back 600 to 800 families.
“I remind myself every day how far I have come—from being a tiny baby who was very sick to becoming a strong woman who’s fearless,” Kenya says. “I live out each day as a walking, breathing miracle.”
“To see the graduates come back and to see how well they have done, it is the most fulfilling feeling for the nurses, doctors, and other staff,” says Dr. Siva, who’s taken care of about 20,000 families in his more than 40-year career. He says it’s important that parents know their children can bounce back after high-risk and difficult starts in life when they have access to MedStar Georgetown’s quality medical care.
MedStar Georgetown offers a wide array of services and expertise, including fetal medicine experts, advanced neonatal care, and top specialists—including one of the best pediatric transplant institutes in the country.
“This ‘continuum of care’—from before pregnancy, through delivery and neonatal care, and beyond discharge in the outpatient area—is what gives the best outcomes,” Dr. Siva says.
Kenya says there’s no question that the care she received as a baby set her up for success. “I know my life could have been very different,” she says. “But thanks to the care of wonderful doctors and nurses, as well as my parents and family, I am a warrior in life because I believed in myself and other people believed in me.”
NICU Baby Turned Georgetown University Graduate Inspires Families
When Nicholas “Nick” Cortina was born in 1993, he weighed 1 pound, 11 ounces, and fit in the palm of his father’s hand. Three-and-one-half months premature, he spent the first 100 days of his life in MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Perinatal Center. Nick and his joyful parents, Diane and Lou, of Ellicott City, Md., left the NICU on Nick’s original due date, March 30, 1994.
Reflecting back all those years ago, Diane can’t help becoming tearful. “The memories bring up all kinds of emotions,” she says. “It is still so vivid. He was so unbelievably small and fragile. We are incredibly grateful to the NICU.”
Now a newly minted graduate of the Georgetown University class of 2016, Nick marvels at how Georgetown University—and the NICU—anchor so many important milestones for him. “We toured the university campus when I was a high school senior, 18 years to the day that I was discharged from the NICU,” Nick says. “We fit in a quick visit to the NICU and reunited with doctors and nurses. I returned several times as a Georgetown student to support families with babies even smaller than I was.” As a guest of honor at two NICU preemie reunions, Nick has described his journey as “coming full circle,” and has inspired many NICU families.
From his long career in the MedStar Georgetown NICU, Siva Subramanian, MD, chief of the Division of Neonatal Perinatal Medicine, knows well the great joy and great concern that mark each family’s journey. In addition to the cutting-edge treatments and research, an equally important part of the NICU’s offerings is the NICU Family Support Center.
A place for families to unwind while visiting their newborns, the center will receive a transformation, thanks to generous donors of the NICU Family Support Center Renovation Fund. The updates will include a tranquil lactation room, a family lounge, sibling play area and a parent and infant sleep room.
“This renovation is much needed and will support us in our mission to provide family-centered care and comfort to these precious babies and their families,” says Dr. Siva.