Rivascano Family

Rivascano baby

Twenty-six weeks into your pregnancy is not a time that you would expect your baby to be born. Yet, this is when Ashley found herself delivering her first baby, Eliana, weighing just 1.9 lbs. She came into the world tiny but mighty. Ashley gave birth at her local hospital in Naples, but because Eliana was a micropreemie, Eliana had to be urgently transferred to South Miami Hospital where they have a Level 3 NICU for the most critical care. Ashley had to recover from Eliana’s delivery in order to be discharged and travel the 2 hours to be with her baby. The heart-wrenching days that she was in Naples and Eliana was in Miami passed slowly. Ashley stayed focused on her sweet baby across the state and put all of her energy into healing and pumping her milk for Eliana to help her heal and grow. Ashley connected with one of ICU baby’s Parent-to-Parent Tele-Support Volunteers, Valerie, who Ashley says, “was always there when I needed guidance and made me feel more at ease.”

Rivascano babyThe financial toll for Ashley of visiting her baby and driving back and forth to Naples, sometimes 4 or 5 hours a day, added up. Knowing that Eliana would need to stay in the NICU for months to grow, Ashley faced a difficult choice between visiting her baby as frequently or working to afford her gasoline. Thankfully, Ashley qualified for ICU baby’s Transportation Assistance Program which provided her with stipends for gas and allowed her to delay going back to work so she could visit more often. Through the long weeks Ashley says, “knowing that I got to see my baby every other day kept me going.”

Ashley did not waver in her commitment to visit her baby at every opportunity and when she couldn’t be there to watch the cameras in Eliana’s isolette. Unfortunately, Ashley faced a challenge new to NICU families during this pandemic when someone close to her tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Every person entering the NICU has always had to go through strict hygiene protocols but now, because of the pandemic, a parent who has any symptoms of the virus or has had even potential exposure, must receive 2 negative tests 24 hours apart in order to return to visiting their baby in the NICU. Ashley understood but was heart-broken to again not be with her baby for several days. Ashley turned to Valerie to help her find a speedy solution. Fortunately Ashley was able to get quick and accurate testing to resume safely visiting her baby. Ashley recalls, “I just took it day by day. Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I told myself she wouldn’t be there forever.”

Over 100 days later, and countless nervous hours on the road, Ashley would make the 2-hour journey to South Miami Hospital one last time to finally bring her baby home. Her ability to stay present each day with Eliana and persevere to be by her side is something that she wants to inspire in other families. Ashley says, “I want other parents to know that it doesn’t last forever and it’s just a season of life.”