Driscoll Children’s Hospital’s Level IV NICU saved the life of a Harlingen micro preemie

The first time Noemi Ferguson got to hold her daughter Elsie was when she was a little over two weeks old.

CORPUS CHRISTI – Noemi and Jason Ferguson credit Driscoll Children’s Hospital’s Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) as the reason their 2-year-old daughter Elsie is alive today.

A micro preemie, Elsie was delivered at 25 weeks and was born Sept. 3, 2018, in Harlingen.

“The Neonatologist at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen told us that Elsie’s best chance would be at Driscoll’s Level IV NICU because she would have access to all the care and specialists she needed,” said Noemi. 

A NICU Level IV offers the highest level of care for babies. It has a clinical team taking care of babies who need special surgery for birth defects and other disorders. It also has a full range of healthcare providers, including pediatric subspecialists, specialized nurses and equipment to care for very sick babies.

The first-time parents are thankful for the top-notch care Elsie received her 85 days in the Driscoll Children’s Hospital’s Level IV NICU.

Two-year-old Elsie Ferguson is now able to sit up on her own. Elsie’s book, “The 1, 2, 3s of Thankfulness,” reflects her family’s attitude toward life.

Elsie faced numerous challenges while in the NICU, including a grade 3 brain bleed and trouble breathing. She was on a ventilator for 62 days.

“The overall care Elsie received at Driscoll was incredible. Every doctor, nurse, specialist, and therapist is so skilled and excellent at what they do. We are so grateful for each and every person that played a role in our daughter’s NICU journey,” she said. “We fully believe that God placed the right team of nurses, doctors and staff to care for our daughter.” 

The Fergusons depended on their faith in God to help them get through the difficult days. They also made friends with other NICU parents. Even so, they didn’t know what to expect.

“We didn’t expect changing our daughter’s first diaper through port holes in an incubator or giving our daughter her first bottle with the help of a speech therapist. However, the nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists and all other Driscoll staff helped us bond with our daughter and showed us ways we could care for her within the NICU,” said Noemi.

One NICU nurse, Vicki Ozuna, remembers Elsie and her parents well.

“They were an absolutely loving family,” she said. “They were all the time visiting Elsie in the NICU.”

When Noemi was concerned as to whether Elsie would be able to be taken off oxygen, Vicki comforted her as to how strong preemies can be.

“They have that fighting spirit. Elsie will do well,” she said, adding that once Elsie went home, Noemi and Jason would be the ones making the difference as to how well she progressed.

At the age of two, Elsie is still delayed developmentally, but she is making progress every day. She is sitting on her own, standing with very little assistance and taking steps with assistance. She rolls everywhere and attempts to pull up on everything.

“She loves books and animals. She LOVES to eat. She is saying a few words and still working toward being able to say more,” Noemi said.

Nonetheless, Elsie continues to face challenges.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital Level IV Nurse Vicki Ozuna is all smiles as she holds micro preemie Elsie Ferguson at Driscoll’s 2019 NICU Reunion. The event, which was cancelled this year because of COVID-19, offers parents and Driscoll staff a chance to catch up on the progress of all the Level IV NICU “graduates.”

“She has low muscle tone, so that can make things a little difficult for her. We still don’t know to what extent the bleed in her cerebellum will affect her, but it does affect balance and coordination, and we have seen her struggle with that. She also has a few vision issues that challenge her. She has made major progress in physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech despite these challenges,” Noemi said.

Noemi has these words of advice for parents of other preemies.

“I know it all feels so overwhelming. I know this isn’t at all what you imagined, but know that preemies are some of the strongest kids you’ll ever meet. Your kid will wow you every step of the way in the NICU and even more so beyond the NICU. As you’re being told diagnoses and bad-case scenarios, don’t be afraid to have hope.”

Noemi tries to provide that hope by using Facebook and other social media as a means of keeping others aware of Elsie’s progress.

“When Elsie was in the NICU I found myself grateful for the stories other micro-preemie mamas shared. I didn’t know anyone personally who had ever walked through something like this, so I searched for stories on social media. A friend of mine also gifted me a book about a former 25-weeker. I found hope in these stories of former NICU warriors who were thriving after the NICU with the help of specialists and therapists,” she said.

“My prayer is that others will find hope in Elsie’s story and progress. It’s not always easy, but seeing the miracles God has done in her life, and the strength and skills she is gaining through therapy, just amazes me every day.”