30th anniversary

Category Archives: high-risk babies

  1. Keeping Watch Over His Preemie Son

    “Here I stand hours on end,
    My days and nights are starting to blend.
    Hoping and praying our great Lord saves my new best friend.
    My eyes are bloodshot, my heart aches for you,
    Here I stand waiting for the day I actually hold you.”

    — Poem by Ryan Heflin

    Parents yearn to stay near to their preemie son

    By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

    John (Ryan) Heflin hovered in the Texoma Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where his 4 lbs. 11 oz. preemie son lay with an underdeveloped lung. Newborn Remington Lane Heflin was losing weight. Nearly three decades before, Ryan was a preemie himself who was given a 1 percent chance of surviving. Born at 1 lb. 7 oz., the medical professionals went to work immediately to provide Ryan with a shot at life. He had open-heart surgery at three days old, the first of many major procedures he would face.

    Years later, the time came for Ryan to camp out in another hospital room, keeping watch over his own preemie son. His wife, Camillea, had yet to hold Remington. After an emergency C-section at a hospital in Durant, Oklahoma, she had remained there in recovery a few days. She was finally able to join them at the TMC NICU, but the couple did not have a place to stay close to their son.

    Reba’s Ranch House provides comfort

    The hospital helped set them up at Reba’s Ranch House. When Ryan and Camillea arrived, the front entrance reminded Ryan of a hotel, but once inside, it was just like a regular home.

    “Jeri [Carosella] did our walk-through and told us we could go in and out of the house whenever we needed to,” Ryan says. “Her son had been premature, too. I told her my story and our boy’s story. By the end of the walk-through, we were hugging.”

    Capturing the story for himself and his son

    During the ordeal, Ryan’s aunt gave him a devotional journal. He began chronicling the minutes of his son’s new life, then continued to write of all the difficulties they endured for the pregnancy and birth. His writing turned to what he had experienced as a preemie.

    The journal is developing into a book of the parallel journey of father and son, Ryan and Remington — preemies three decades apart.

    “I just started writing,” Ryan says. “I’ve never written a book in my life, but I’m sure your heart can make you do things, and if it’s meant to be, it’s going to work out. I feel God has me here for a reason. Throughout the book, I tell the audience that it’s God’s life, and He has a story to tell. I’m just here to live it.”

    The book includes the role Reba’s Ranch House played in the story.

    “We were in the NICU all hours, going to visit Remington whenever,” Ryan says. “We couldn’t have done that if it weren’t for the house. We probably wouldn’t have been able to see our son every day.”

    Good news at Christmas

    With treatment at the NICU, Remington finally began gaining weight, and on Christmas Day 2019, Ryan and Camillea took him home. Someday, Remington can read his father’s book of their parallel preemie experiences.

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  2. Mothers Stay Close to Their High-Risk Babies

    Separating mother and baby can cause trauma

    When a mother is told she’s being discharged from the hospital before her newborn baby, fear sets in. How will she bond with her baby if she lives an hour away? How can she afford to stay in a hotel for potentially months until her baby is ready to come home?

    Mothers of high-risk babies face this situation at Texoma Medical Center in the new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). But the NICU partners with Reba’s Ranch House to sit down with a family and explain the option of staying at the ranch house within sight of the hospital.

    “They need a place to stay so they can be close to their sweet little baby,” says Angela Yancey (MSN, BSN, RNC-OB). She is the Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Texoma Medical Center. Her role covers the NICU, the newborn nursery, labor and delivery, postpartum, and pediatrics.

    A special time for bonding

    “It’s super important for a mom to spend time with her preterm baby while it’s in the NICU,” Angela says. “It really promotes bonding, breastfeeding specifically. Even if the baby is too small to latch on the mom, it’s very important for a mom to be at the bedside. Studies have shown that a mom who pumps while even looking at her baby is able to produce more breast milk.”

    Sometimes, mothers pump in the privacy of their room at Reba’s Ranch House. There is a special refrigerator at the house to safely store the milk until feeding time. As the only NICU in the area, they have an agreement with surrounding facilities.

    “We’re excited to offer the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to North Texas,” Angela says. “We are the closest Level II NICU within an hour and a half north and 45 minutes south. If a baby is delivered at any facility in the surrounding area, they can come here. We have that same arrangement with OU. If they have a transfer that can come to us, maybe because the family lives in Durant, Oklahoma, they will bring that baby to us.”

    This allows the mother and a support person to stay at Reba’s Ranch House until her baby is discharged. According to Tracy Anderson, who is over Transports at OU, Reba McEntire donated funds to OU to set up a staff chair for the NICU department. She was pleased with the connection for the babies.

    “Having a baby in the NICU is a period of great stress for families and mothers, so it’s really nice that Reba’s Ranch House can alleviate one of the stresses,” Angela says. “I’ve had patients literally start crying when we told them there was the option of Reba’s Ranch House. Some of our moms live an hour away and would have to commute otherwise. This is already such a traumatic time for them. We try to do everything ourselves, setting it up so they just have to go across the parking lot and be able to come right back to their baby.”

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