September is NICU Awareness Month

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 6:38 AM CDT
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KIMBERLY, Wis. (WBAY) - Every year, nearly 15 percent of babies born will be admitted a neonatal intensive care unit, according to the March of Dimes. A family from Kimberly is sharing their story for NICU Awareness Month of a nearly 200 day stay in intensive care.

One misconception about NICUs is that they’re for severely premature babies. While that’s true, they’re also ready to care for any baby born in need of critical care.

That’s true for the Krsnich family from Kimberly, whose daughter Clara spent 171 days in the NICU at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison.

Melissa and Andrew’s daughter was born on January 18 with a condition known as esophageal atresia -- when the esophagus doesn’t connect to the stomach. They found this out before she was born, and she was delivered at a Madison hospital so she could quickly be taken to the NICU.

Clara was also born with a congenital heart disease, where she had holes in the wall between the heart’s chambers and flaws in the valves.

Clara had numerous surgeries, including six in her first month of life.

Eventually both Clara’s esophagus and heart were repaired during her lengthy NICU stay.

Clara left the NICU after 171 days there -- doctors and nurses blew bubbles for her as she became a NICU graduate -- and she got to come home and meet her two siblings for the first time.

“Just for the shear amount of time that we spent there, they almost become family. Once you’re out of the hospital, you kind of miss seeing those guys because they saw you through the ups and the downs and the milestones and all of that,” Andrew Krsnich said.

The Krsnich family has been home for about two months now. Clara has a feeding tube and gets feeding therapy to learn to eat and physical therapy.

Her parents say she amazes them every day with what a fighter she is.

“Nurses said babies are resilient and I didn’t know any better. But even a couple days after surgery it’s like holy cow how can she go from the OR to being a normal baby again. It’s just crazy how much of a warrior she is,” Melissa Krsnich said.

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