David Fuselier is a happy one-year-old with a healthy appetite and the ability to light up a room. He is the center of attention with family and friends; and for good reasons.
But this wasn’t always the case.
About 18 months ago—before he was born—all eyes were on little David out of deep concern. The new COVID-19 coronavirus was just one of those concerns; and with the pandemic brewing, David’s mother realized her journey would be different.
She just didn’t know how much.
It all hit her when at 23 weeks pregnant the first-time mom received some unsettling news—by herself.
“I went to the doctor for a regular ultrasound that day, but my husband stayed in the car because of COVID-19 visitor restrictions,” said Stacey Fuselier. “I had a feeling that something might be wrong. During the previous appointment, they had a suspicion that they were able to confirm this time. Our baby had Esophageal Atresia Type-A.”
Esophageal Artresia Type-A is a rare birth defect that causes a baby’s esophagus and stomach to not connect. In David’s situation, opposite ends of his esophagus did not meet causing a five and a half centimeter gap—which is considered a long gap. The correction of a long gap required a corrective surgery referred to as the "Foker procedure." So from birth, through surgical corrections and recovery, the Fuselier family spent a total of seven months in the Texas Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Stacey said receiving this kind of news without her husband by her side was difficult; and foreshadowed how much of early motherhood would go. The global pandemic continues to rob many people of moments meant to be shared with family. In response, she developed an entirely new family inside of Texas Children’s.
Stacey speaks candidly about the incredible support team she and David had in the NICU, also known as the Newborn Center.
“David has two grandmas who love him, adore him and are so happy to see him now that he’s home,” she said. “But I always joked that David needed a NICU grandma. And well, we got that in nurse Lolita Fernandez. She was David’s NICU grandma and my NICU mom. I didn’t have my mom. I didn’t have anyone there. She was there every step of the way.”
Stacey recalls that she also had a NICU sister in nurse Lauren Stombaugh. Lauren became a friend she could talk to about what she was feeling and going through. “There’s a whole group of these NICU nurses that were absolutely amazing. You understand that they are taking care of your child, but you don’t recognize in the moment that they are taking care of you, too.”
In addition to exceptional care for their child, Stacey and her husband, Arlen, did benefit from other supports. They took advantage of the ability to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, speak with a social worker and access the milk bank.
Today, David is at home and doing very well. He still eats with the help of a feeding tube once each day, but mostly eats by mouth. He is a happy and playful baby; whose progress his parents consider a miracle.
“The NICU is a very sobering experience,” Stacey said. “Then you add a pandemic that restricts the number of people who can support you, and it’s even more challenging. My nurses became my family and my saving grace. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
“Our journey was a difficult one, but I never doubted we’d found the right care team. Even on the tough days I was thankful that our baby could get better in a place as exceptional as Texas Children’s Newborn Center.”