Tuesday was a big day in the young life of Claire Wardle. After 294 days in Akron Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Claire was going home to be with her twin brother, James, and her jubilant parents, Barry and Rachel.
“I can’t believe it’s finally here,” said Barry. “I could go on and on about the things that didn’t look good. We were expecting to be here a year and she is going home at 10 months. Everything about them is … a miracle.”
Indeed, the Wardles were told their twins had a 15 percent chance of survival when they were born premature at 23 weeks, 4 days, on Dec. 16.
“There were several days we didn’t think we would get here,” Barry said. “The best and worst days get all burnt into your brain.”
But James, who was previously discharged, and Claire were “little fighters” all the way through, said their father.
And that’s why Barry and Rachel wanted to give the NICU staff a lasting memory of Claire and James.
They had Cleveland Cavalier Championship-inspired t-shirts made for 200 members of the staff. Playing off the famous “CLE,” the front of the shirt says, “You can’t spell MIRACLE without CLAIRE. Wardle twins 12-16-2015.” The back of the shirt says, “James 23 weeks & 4 days,” paying homage to both the determined leader of the Cavs and the dangerously early gestational week during which the twins arrived.
“The shirts are not only a thank you to this amazing staff,” said Barry, “but we would love them to give hope to future NICU families.”
Claire, who sports adorable pink eyeglasses, will go home on a vent and with two parents who said they feel very well educated in all the medical issues related to prematurity. They will also get some home nursing support.
After lots of hugs, the recovery of a plastic infant bath tub from their NICU bathroom, photos, and completion of discharge paperwork, the Wardles were ready to head to their brand new home in North Lima, Ohio, where Barry and Rachel only got to spend a few days before the unexpectedly early arrival of their babies. They have pretty much lived in the NICU, which is more than an hour from home, since December.
“Thank you for being awesome parents,” said Stephanie Strader, NICU clinical coordinator, giving Rachel a hug good-bye.
Ironically, Claire was getting a transport ride home with the same paramedic, Don Mclaughlin, and respiratory therapist, Leigh Connelly, who brought her and James to Akron Children’s from St. Elizabeth Hospital 10 months ago.
“Claire, do you remember riding in this ambulance?” Rachel asked as she watched her baby girl being loaded in the back of the mobile ICU.
When asked what she most looked forward to tomorrow – on the first day her family of four would all be home – Rachel said, “Waking up in my house and seeing her there.”