“Give us 6 hours and we’ll do all we can,” they were told.
In 6 hours, Jean and Lou Greco of Hillsville, Pa., would find out how their baby daughter Josie’s life would play out; if it would play out at all.
Five days earlier, Josephine, called “Josie,” had been born prematurely at 29 weeks, and doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital had a gravely ill child on their hands. During delivery at another hospital she’d experienced a shortage of blood flow to her brain and kidneys.
“I had no clue how bad Josie’s health was, and those 6 hours were the longest of my life,” Jean said. “I recall Louie holding me up as I could barely walk across the street to the Ronald McDonald House because of how fearful I was. We were in a place we’d never been. We didn’t know the doctors and I had just left my only child for the first time not knowing what the next conversation may bring.”
The first 27 weeks of Jean’s pregnancy were “perfectly normal,” she said. Ironically, Jean was maternity clothes shopping in Boardman when she unexpectedly went into labor.
She was rushed to a nearby hospital, and 2 weeks later gave birth to a 2-pound, 15-inch long little girl. After being closely monitored in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for her first 5 days, Josie’s condition worsened and additional specialists were needed. Jean and Josie were transported to Akron Children’s where they would stay for 69 days.
Doctors were hopeful. The team told the Grecos that Josie had a tough road ahead, but she was a fighter and they were optimistic. Later, this same team told them to “get ready, because Josie does things in her own way and in her own time.”
“I’m forever grateful that God didn’t take her from us, because she never should have survived her traumatic birth,” Jean said.
Josie spent much of her first 2 years at Akron Children’s being treated for chronic kidney disease, gastrointestinal and neurodevelopmental issues, including multiple surgeries and intense feeding, physical and occupational therapies.
“I always say this is Josie’s world and we just live in it,” Jean said. “She has proven many specialists wrong by surpassing so many goals.”
On her 5th birthday, Josie was scheduled for a kidney transplant, and her mother was able to be her donor.
“I’m very uncomfortable when people say you’re a hero,” she said. “I’m forever grateful that I could do for my child what she needed in a very extreme and unusual situation, and that I was allowed a second chance to give her the gift of life.”
Josie, now 8½, is a happy-go-lucky third-grader with no clue what she has gone through, according to her mother. She’s still closely monitored by her team of Akron Children’s doctors, and this summer is facing a major surgery to her spine and nervous system to help improve her mobility.
“Her health is proof of the power of prayer and a testament to the incredible team of medical professionals who have been part of her life,” Jean said.
“We are so blessed. This is an unusual story but there are so many others that we see – unthinkable things – at every doctor’s appointment and every hospital visit. We look to the children beside us and say ‘Oh, my word. How lucky are we?’”