Amidst the Chaos
Charon Pickett was a very busy mom-to-be in the autumn of 2012. As if two kids and one on the way weren’t enough, she was in school full-time to get her nursing degree and working 32 hours a week at a nursing home over the weekends. “It was a very stressful time,” Charon recalls. “A really busy life.”
In spite of that stress, Charon felt capable of handling any challenge that came her way. So when she began leaking fluid during her third pregnancy and was ordered on bed rest, she admits she didn’t take the advice to heart. “I didn’t quite believe the doctor,” she said. “I was only having contractions once a week, but I had to take my nursing comps. I couldn’t just sit in bed.”
That decision to keep moving ahead with her plans haunted her for months to come.
At just 26 weeks, little Aubrey was born via emergency c-section, and all of Charon’s plans came to an abrupt halt. “Everything happened so fast,” she said. “I just wanted to see her, to hold her. She came out crying, and they placed her on my cheek, but then they took her to the NICU right away.”
That separation was beyond painful for Charon who was coming out of surgery herself and worried she might not get to spend time with her new daughter. “I kept thinking: what if I don’t have that time? I don’t want recovery. I just want to see my baby.”
Charon struggled with her choices, and felt tremendous guilt regarding Aubrey’s early birth. “I felt that if I had just listened to my doctor, if I had just delayed my studies for a semester and taken my time, this might not have happened. But I had two other children to support, and I wanted to be able to provide for them as well. It was a difficult decision to make, but I had to live with what happened after.”
For Charon and her family, life now centered around baby Aubrey. While she did cry at her birth – surprising all the doctors in the delivery room – she was still struggling to breathe. Aubrey was intubated to help regulate her breathing after a CPAP failed to improve her condition, and she underwent multiple transfusions. She also did not pass hearing and vision tests, leaving Charon to worry about her future. At one point, Aubrey even fought a case of pneumonia. Her family was by her side every step of the way, even if the younger siblings couldn’t be close to her due to the risk of infection.
“The hardest part was signing that paper,” said Charon, recalling the paperwork given to her at the hospital, “where they ask: ‘Do you want us to save your child’s life?’ – I didn’t want Aubrey to suffer, but I didn’t want her to die. I just really wanted to hold her in my arms.”
Charon recalls a particularly harrowing night when she decided, for once, to sleep at home. She woke up the next morning to find the hospital had called her multiple times and her phone hadn’t alerted her. In a panic, she called them back and they told her that Aubrey had pulled out her breathing tube on her own—but there was no need to worry because she was breathing fine on her own with just the CPAP machine. It was the beginning of a long fight.
March of Dimes and Ronald McDonald House
One day during her long stay at the hospital, a representative from the March of Dimes approached Charon. At first, she recalls she was a bit defensive, not wanting to add any undue stress to Aubrey’s growth and recovery. But as she spoke to them, Charon realized that her daughter could be part of something important, part of research that helped prevent preterm birth and help the survival rate of other preemies.
Ultimately Charon decided to work with the March of Dimes, and Aubrey had an experimental mist added to her CPAP regimen to help the growth of her lungs. “I like knowing that we’ve helped contribute to research, and maybe helped future kids going through this,” Charon said of the experience.
Additionally, during the long days and nights staying by Aubrey’s side, Charon and her family learned about the Ronald McDonald house. Aubrey stayed at Forsyth Hospital in Winston-Salem, which includes a Ronald McDonald House in its facilities. With two other children to worry about, and long, stressful hours staying with Aubrey in the hospital, Charon said their help was essential to making it through the many weeks at the hospital.
“Some days I’d leave my wallet at home, leave my purse… I never needed to worry because they had everything I needed. A playroom for my kids, lunch and dinner for them, too. I could come and not worry. I could take a shower, get a cup of coffee, just find a quiet place to myself,” Charon explained. That support and assistance was invaluable for Charon and her family.
At Home and Flourishing
On December 28, 2012, Aubrey was able to go home with her family for the first time. In spite of her many challenges early on, Charon reports that her daughter Aubrey has exceeded all predictions, and has not experienced many of the setbacks they had expected. By 12 months old she had already caught up to a baby born at full term, and has developed a bright, outgoing personality.
“She puts her sunglasses on, and she just transforms,” says Charon. “She’s such a little diva.” Her older brother and sister are very protective of her, and let her get away with quite a bit. But Charon laughs, “She packs a punch, and her big siblings love her – they let her boss them around for now.”
Charon knows that she’s lucky, and not all mothers get to tell such a positive story about their preemies. It’s one of the reasons that becoming active in the March of Dimes means so much to her.
“People just don’t pay attention to the issue of preterm birth. They think, maybe preterm means a few days early – you don’t realize what it means until it happens to you. Now I understand what’s behind March of Dimes. So many babies are born early, and Aubrey and I owe it to March of Dimes to get more donations and raise awareness. We saw children in the NICU who didn’t make it, and it’s so heartbreaking. But if more people help organizations like March of Dimes, who knows what progress could be made?” Charon asks.
Here at BCBSNC, March of Dimes is one of our longest-standing charity partners. For over ten years, we have sponsored March of Dimes and their primary fundraiser, the March for Babies. This year we will have company teams in the Triangle,Winston-Salem and Fayetteville raising money in the annual walk-a-thon. March of Dimes does amazing work in our communities, supporting families like the Charon’s and funding urgent research to end premature births.
To learn more about the March of Dimes, visit their website.
You can also learn more about Ronald McDonald house at their site here.