A Call to Faith: Surviving Hurricane Harvey
NICU baby braves hurricane in latest fight for her life
Lily Faith has returned to Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi. She was transported back to Driscoll on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, and her parents are so happy to have their little girl back home with them.
Since the birth of their daughter, Miguel Villalobos and Leanna Vidal lived every day afraid their telephone would ring with bad news from the hospital.
They feared the worst when they saw Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, calling on Thursday, Aug. 24. Miguel and Leanna were halfway between the one-hour drive from their home in Alice, Texas, to Driscoll Children’s to check on their daughter, Lily Faith, when they heard the call.
Leanna was told the medical team at Driscoll felt it best to transport their daughter to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, to get Lily Faith away from the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Lily Faith was born at 23 weeks, 5 days on March 12, 2017. She weighed 1 pound, 5 ounces at birth. Because of her fragile condition and multiple health issues, she could not afford any loss of electricity at the hospital.
“When they said they were evacuating certain babies, I immediately started crying,” Vidal said. “She’s our baby girl and it’s difficult already being a NICU parent, walking out of the NICU every single day without your child in fear they’ll call you at any time to tell you something happened with her getting sick or not doing well. And now they were about to send her nearly eight hours away. It felt like someone taking the other half of your heart from you.”
Because of the staff and equipment required to take care of the babies transported back to Fort Worth, most parents weren’t allowed to travel with their children. Even if there was a chance to fly with her daughter, Vidal arrived at Driscoll without any money or belongings.
“So we stayed behind,” Vidal said. “I looked at my baby girl and all I could see was love and that fighting spirit in her. I just told myself, ‘She’s a little warrior princess already and now she’s an adventurer. She’s going to be OK.’ We kissed her forehead and I placed my daughter’s life in the hands of these miracle workers. My little star lit up the sky that night and arrived safely thanks to these amazing hospitals and their teams. We are beyond thankful our baby was taken to Cook Children’s. It’s such an amazing hospital with a team of such kind and beautiful people.”
Lily Faith was born nearly four months premature. Leanna’s water broke on Valentine’s Day at 20 weeks most likely due to infection. Leanna held on for nearly three weeks with a broken water bag, not knowing when or what day her daughter would be born.
“Every day I was losing amniotic fluid and every day doctors would tell me there was no hope, that my baby would die,” Vidal said.
When Lily Faith was born, parents heard their daughter cry. But that first sign of hope, soon gave way to the reality of what Lily would face in the upcoming months.
Lily has gone through so much since her birth:
- Surgery to close an extra passageway in the heart at just 1 week old
- Numerous blood transfusions
- A meningitis scare that required a spinal tap
- Eye disease caused by abnormal vessel growth
- Serratia infections
- Chronic lung disease
- Pulmonary hypertension
On July 13 (Leanna’s birthday), Lily became sick with a urinary tract infection and a lung infection that caused her lungs to collapse. She struggled to breathe on her own and required help multiple times. She pulled through and just recently received a tracheotomy to help her breathe and a tube to be placed in her stomach for feeding.
Lily Faith has proven tough as nails time and time again. Her parents credit the medical team at Driscoll for their daughter’s life. Parents were on their way to Driscoll to hear what was next for their daughter when the hurricane warnings began.
“We never gave up because our hearts told us otherwise ... and I'm so glad we didn't because now we have a little girl with the most beautiful eyes. She's just beautiful and perfect in every way,” Vidal said.
Since arriving at Cook Children’s, the parents no longer look at their phone as something to fear, but as the lifeline of their baby. Vidal calls to check on Lily and get updates over the phone on her daughter’s progress.
"Everyone at Cook Children's has been so great," Vidal said. "We have family in Fort Worth and they are sending us updates from the NICU and pictures of Lily. I've never seen her smile as much as she has since she's been at Cook Children's."
Vidal said the weather “did get ugly” around the surrounding areas. Signs were knocked down, buildings and gas stations destroyed, leaving devasation behind. But now, Vidal has a new sense of hope.
“It’s something you never expect to happen, but you just never know what storms life will throw your way next. This entire journey changes your perspective,” Vidal said.
Vidal let many things go for her daughter. Before her water broke, she had just been hired and chosen as a graduate teaching assistant at Texas A&M University Kingsville, accepted into the MA program and a teaching program as well.
And even with everything that’s happened, Vidal says she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I just wanted our daughter safe and to live. It was all that mattered. In the blink of an eye your life could change ... I found myself losing everything I had and now her life was hanging by a thread the moment my water broke. I did everything I could to try to keep her in as long as God allowed me to and by a miracle I now have my daughter alive,” Vidal said. “I hope her story can inspire other families who have babies in the NICU and are going through a tough ordeal. Lily is proof that miracles exist.”