Accepting Help is a Humbling Experience: One Mother’s NICU Story

This is Part 2 of a blog series by Kelly Gallagher. You can read Part 1 here.

The next few weeks were some of the most trying times of my life. I would get up and drive 25 minutes to the hospital, spend 8 hours in the NICU with my boys, come home to feed and bathe my older two, then trudge back up to the hospital for another 4 hours. I must have logged hundreds of hours in that hospital chair. I remember sitting down the first night after I came home from seeing them. I was discharged the day before and the impact of the stress was sky high. I was exhausted from trying to act strong, overwhelmed from the inability to care for my boys at home and frustrated by the tears that would not stop flowing. I went into the bathroom, locked the door and cried. I wanted so desperately to feel sorry for myself and be angry for not carrying them to term. I felt out of control and unable to process the wide range of postpartum emotions I was dealing with. Why me? Why my boys?  Why did we have to be the 1 in 10? It’s a question that I had asked several hundred times in just a few days, but I picked myself up that night. Slowly, but strongly. My boys needed me just as much as I needed them. I knew my options were to sit back and be a bystander or become the one who made a difference.

I opened the door and never turned back.

I got up that next morning and didn’t stop until the second my head hit the pillow.  My entire attitude changed. I became a part of the “medical team.” Did I have my moments? Absolutely! My older two were being shuffled back and forth between family and friends. The sterile smell of the unit combined with the soft beeping of the machines became my lullaby as I anxiously waited for daily rounds to be completed. Doctors became friends and nurses became family.We shared stories, shed a few tears and always ended days with a smile. Well, most days.  Within three weeks, it was Curran’s turn to graduate. Armed with a freshly opened infant carrier that had been sitting unoccupied for what felt like an eternity, we placed him in the car and waved goodbye. Actually, it was more like see you later.

You, see, Connor was still in the hospital and not cleared to go home. On top of now caring for a preemie at home and my two older kids, I now had to somehow work spending my day at Holy Redeemer with Connor into the mix. Those 4 days felt like 40. I could not have done any of it without my support system. Meals, cards, gifts and prayers made our life manageable. You can’t really comprehend the meaning of appreciation until you go through a trying time in your life. Accepting help is a humbling experience. It allows true love to break walls you did not even know existed. My walls certainly crumbled after that summer.

Accepting help also enabled me to have the strength to believe in the power of giving back. I spent a few months pondering how I could help a few families who have to spend their first holiday in the unit where we spent their first summer. By Christmas, I had gathered enough donations from family and friends to deliver 15 baskets filled with gift cards, crocheted hats, snacks, journals, sanitizer, and love. My heart was full but this tiny ache was still there. It nagged at me. The little sleep in which I was being granted by my sleeping angels became disrupted by my visions of wanting change. What one thing would have changed the way I bonded with my boys during their time there? Although there is no way to replace physically being there holding them, was there something out there that came close? I began immersing myself in Google searches on the NICU and different breakthrough ideas that were being driven across the country.  Without hesitation, I knew that the minute I stumbled upon the Angel Eye camera system equipment, I had found something that offered exactly what I was looking for. This was it!

This small piece of equipment was an opportunity to change lives for NICU moms at Holy Redeemer. I was sure it was a great idea. I knew moms would love it. But, how could I convince the hospital to take this kind of a jump. Would people connect with the idea and buy into it? At $2,500 per camera plus maintence and training, this was not an overnight thing.

Little did I know the impact this idea would have on hundreds of people. This idea would pave the way for a new method of distributing family-based care in our hospital. This was no longer about me or my feelings about my experience with my boys. It was about every mom out there who has had to leave their baby in the hospital. The next week, I put up a Go Fund Me account and raised almost $3,000 in a little over a month. It was then I realized that my idea needed to become more than just that.  But, where to begin? I had yet to approach anyone from the hospital.  Would they kindly shut down my idea? How much red tape would I need to break through? Did I have the time or the strength to take this to the top? My superheroes at home gave me the go ahead. I was ready for the jump. I just don’t think I was ready for how hard I would fall for the idea that would take me on a path in life that I never knew existed. But sometimes in life, you need to fall to realize that getting up and moving forward is the only way to bring change. The Superhero Project was born and immediately began its mission. I was ready and willing to make this idea a reality. What I wasn’t ready for was the hundreds of people who would rally behind me and help me change lives one dollar at a time.

 


 

Like the Superhero Project on Facebook.

Kelly Gallagher

Kelly Gallagher

Kelly Gallagher is a second grade teacher in the Upper Moreland School District. A teacher for 13 years, Kelly graduated in 2003 from Desales with an Elementary/Special Education degree. In, 2006 Kelly earned a Masters in Special Education and also holds a writing certificate from West Chester University. She is close to finishing an additional Masters in Educational Leadership from Gwynedd Mercy University. Kelly's passion has always been in the education field. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Justin and their four children, Addyson, Ryan, Connor and Curran.

 
Kelly Gallagher

3 Responses to “Accepting Help is a Humbling Experience: One Mother’s NICU Story”

  1. Patty Burke

    As your Mom and Mom Mom to Connor & Curran I remember well each and every step of this journey. God knew he needed to give these tiny miracle babies to a mommy that had the strength and courage to take on this challenge so he chose you my beautiful daughter. I’m so very proud of you for giving so much of yourself to so many. xo

    Reply
  2. Trina C.

    Kelly…this is WONDERFUL! Thanks for sharing your personal life changing experience with all of us. I am so proud of you and the Superhero Project you created. This is an excellent way to support families and make their NICU experience positive and encouraging. Continue to keep up your tremendous efforts to make a difference! xo

    Reply
  3. Jennifer Vilpe

    I love this series! Kelly is an amazing writer! What a beautiful story! NICU is something most people do not think about until they have to and to know there are Superheroes rallying for each family and tiny baby warms my heart. xo

    Reply

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