Bitter cold winds with hurricane force blew that snowy night. Nikki was only 24 weeks pregnant, but her maternal instinct was strong. The pressure she felt in her abdomen wasn’t right. It was past midnight and the weather was awful, but she told her husband, Tyler, “We have to go.”
Tyler navigated 30 miles of unplowed roads from their home on the Delmarva Peninsula to the hospital in Salisbury, Maryland. Nikki felt the urge to push and her water broke. Their son Grayson was born on the seat of their truck. Nikki screamed for help. The impossibly small infant made three small cries, then turned blue.
“I went into survival mode,” recalls Nikki, who is a nurse. “I had to save my baby.” Tyler, a firefighter and paramedic, called an ambulance. Nikki swaddled the baby in her coat. She checked his pulse and started CPR. They met an ambulance at a nearby firehouse.
Neonatologists at Peninsula Regional Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)—staffed by Children’s National Hospital—stabilized Grayson (he weighed less than two pounds) and reached out for help. The storm had grounded area helicopter transports. An ambulance with a nurse and emergency medical technician from our NICU set out on the 150-mile trip across the Chesapeake Bay in blizzard conditions. They almost didn’t make it.
“If they had turned around,” Nikki says, “Grayson would not be here.”
When baby Grayson finally reached the NICU at Children’s National, his diagnosis indicated little or no brain function. “They told us we might have some hard decisions to make,” Nikki says. “Nothing went right at first.”
She recalls one nurse in particular, Emily, who guarded Grayson’s life when his blood pressure dropped that first night. “She spent the whole night at his side,” Nikki says.
Grayson had bacterial and fungal infections and brain bleeds. He required bedside heart surgery to tie off a small blood vessel that caused breathing issues. He also had multiple blood transfusions and a hernia repair. Difficult days outnumbered good ones, but his condition gradually improved.
After 15 weeks in the NICU, Grayson and his parents went home. Grayson is now 3 and has a bright future. He loves to play with his family’s dogs and has a healthy appetite for everything from blueberries to steak and chicken nuggets.
“Thanks to Children’s National, my little miracle baby made it through,” Nikki says, “even though every single odd was against us.”