Entrance into the world couldn’t come soon enough for Oskar Hollrah. Kristina and Matt Hollrah’s first child was born nearly a full trimester early at the University of Missouri Women’s and Children’s Hospital on Jan. 26, 2014. The Hollrahs came to the hospital that Sunday morning as a precaution, not thinking Oskar would end up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) that day, born a full 15 weeks early.
“I thought, maybe, I was having contractions,” said Kristina Hollrah, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at MU. “Being this early in my pregnancy, I figured they were fake Braxton Hicks contractions, the doctors would send me home, we’d have a laugh about it and meet Oskar later. But Oskar had his own plan.”
Oskar’s plan included arrival 101 days ahead of Kristina’s delivery date, followed by 81 days in the NICU. Once it became apparent Oskar wasn’t waiting any longer, the staff showed Kristina and Matt photos of premature infants to mentally prepare them for what their child might look like.
After Oskar was born, doctors at the NICU explained the increased risks that may arise for premature babies, such as developmental delay and blindness. The risk for potential pre-term problems is reduced by roughly 10 percent for every seven days after 24 weeks, and Oskar was born at 25 weeks. But, the doctors and nurses also pointed out that every baby, whether they were born premature or not, will be the person they were meant to be.
“Their honesty about potential complications and reassurances helped put us at ease that Oskar was going to be the person he was meant to be, regardless of how and when he came into the world,” Kristina said.
“They became family and took care of our whole family. You can’t imagine how much the staff and doctors take on. It’s not just the patient, it’s the whole family they care for.”
This fact was even more relevant for Kristina as a faculty member at the MU School of Medicine. The medical school prides itself on its emphasis on educating physicians who provide effective patient-centered care. Two of the medical school residents who joined attending physician, Susan Winkelmann, MD, for the delivery of Oskar were former anatomy students of Kristina’s. Winkelmann herself was a graduate of MU’s medical school.
“The residents and attending physician were unbelievably professional and kind,” Kristina said. “They made me incredibly proud of our medical program and exhibited fantastic patient-centered care.”
To the relief of Kristina and Matt and considering his early arrival, Oskar is now a healthy baby. While he weighed only 2 pounds when he was born, he is now an average weight for an infant born full term.
University of Missouri Children’s Hospital now has a larger NICU to provide critical care to more premature and critically ill newborns.