2008-02-01 / Health

From loss rises hope

Three local families suffered the tragedy of every parent's worst fear. In the process, they discovered the strength of support and are now using their experiences to help others.

Expectant parents Laura and Christopher Foy of Brick were eagerly awaiting the birth of twin girls when Laura went into pre-term labor,causing her to feel contractions while only in her second trimester.Under the watchful eye of her physician,Charles Hux,M.D.,a board-certified high-risk obstetrician, Laura was admitted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center,Neptune.

After three weeks of bed rest in the hospital,Laura experienced severe contractions, requiring Dr.Hux to perform an immediate C-section to bring babies Annabell and Branna into the world.Born at 1 lb.,6 oz.and 1 lb.,7 oz., respectively, the babies were quickly transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital at Jersey Shore.

An unimaginable loss Caring for more than 400 babies each year, the NICU provides one of the highest levels of care in Monmouth and Ocean counties to critically ill newborns and those at risk of complications after birth. And in the days following the birth of the Foy twins, the NICU team worked around the clock to give the newborns their best chance of survival.

However,Annabell's health took a turn for the worse,and Laura and Chris faced the unimaginable loss of one of their baby girls.

"The day we lostAnnabell was the worst day of my life,"confides Laura."The only comfort we had was that Branna was holding on,our family was with us,and we had the unbelievable expertise and support of the NICU staff. I don't know how they did it,but somehow they made us feel better."

Under the constant care of her dedicated medical team and her family,Branna continued to grow stronger,and after 103 days, she was healthy enough to go home. While the Foys were with Branna in the NICU,a nurse suggested that they speak with Kim andWalt Currie,another set of parents who shared the same experience.

"We connected instantly,"remarks Laura."The ability to share experiences and feelings with someone who has traveled the same path as you is an incredible outlet."

Finding solace in support

The Foys soon met others who had suffered the loss of a child,among them Kristin and Jeff Belger,and together, these parents had the idea to expand the support system they'd found in each other outward.So they established the"AANgels of Hope"NICU Support Group,named after the children the founding parents lost:Annabell,Ashlyn,and Nathaniel.As Laura says,"It is in their memories that we want to share hope with other families."

In collaboration with the physicians, nurses,pastoral care staff,and behavioral health professionals at the Children's Hospital, the group provides an extended network of support to comfort any family's stay on the NICU.

Michael Graff,M.D.,medical director of the NICU,appreciates the group's efforts: "With the high level of technology and clinical expertise now available,premature babies have a better chance than ever for a healthy life.But caring for the emotional needs of the family is equally important."

AANgels of Hope has been actively supporting many families on the NICU, with group members making themselves available in person,on the phone,or via email whenever they are needed.With the hospital's assistance, the group has even created a new Family Resource Room.

"Babies can be on a NICU for months at a time, so you basically move in,"says Laura."The doctors and nurses become part of your family,and you become part of theirs.With the support group, the whole'NICU family'comes together to take care of our own."

For more information about Jersey Shore University Medical Center,call the Meridian Health Line at (800) 560-9990 or visit www.meridianhealth.com.

Return to top