- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2003

Penelope Smith stopped insisting on riding the toy train that looped through the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital lawn yesterday long enough to rest on the lap of Bonny Ewing, the nurse who cared for her when she was born 11 weeks premature.

“She was really sick,” said Mrs. Ewing, who kept Penelope alive by adjusting the child’s breathing tubes and ventilator, and maintained womblike fluid levels.

The meeting between Mrs. Ewing and 11-month-old Penelope was just one of many yesterday for parents, babies, nurses and staff at the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Among those who also attended the “Preemie Reunion” were parents with twins and two couples with triplets. Some children ran, walked or crawled, while others arrived in carriages or were carried.

Chloe Keller, 13 months old, came in the arms of an older sister.

“Knots had tied in her umbilical cord,” said her mother, Karen Keller. “She would have died in 24 hours.”

Chloe had to stay in the hospital for five months and underwent heart surgery and two eye surgeries, and lived on a ventilator for nine weeks. She remains blind in one eye but otherwise leads a normal life, playing among her five sisters and one brother in their Boonsboro, Md., home.

The father, Mark Keller, is a mortgage broker. Mrs. Keller teaches the children at home.

Mrs. Ewing, a nurse for 33 years, said about 3 percent of the roughly 5,000 babies born each year at Shady Grove are “really sick.”

The neonatal unit can handle about 34 infants, and each nurse is assigned usually three or four of them. She also said some of the premature babies arrive from hospitals that do not have special-care units.

Penelope Smith weighed 1 pound 10 ounces at birth and also had eye troubles, but laser surgery has helped correct the problem.

“She was the size of a Coke bottle with a head on it,” said her father, Jason Smith.

“Now she walks, she talks and she wants to see the other kids here.”

Blake Morataya, who was born prematurely 17 months ago, wanted to walk yesterday instead of ride in his stroller. His father, Will, kept close watch over him while mother Jessica hugged and talked to Mrs. Ewing.

“She saved our baby,” said Mrs. Morataya, who is now studying nursing instead of teaching. “We love Bonny so much.”

The child was born on April 19, 2002, with a heart murmur, breathing problems and trouble with his retinas.

He now wears glasses, though he frequently tries to remove them.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide