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Mayfield family feels 'blessed' to have a NICU nearby

Crystal Williams knows the heartbreak of having a sick child so far away from home. She spent three months at the University of Louisville Hospital after her son was born prematurely seven years ago. 

Williams and her husband, Jeremy, didn’t even try to have another child until she heard last year that Baptist Health Paducah was opening the region’s first Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“Both my son and stepson were premature, so we have a history of preemies,” said Williams, 25, of Mayfield. “I just had an overwhelming fear of having to go to Louisville and leave my children here, or having to leave my baby there.”

This time, Williams had a smooth pregnancy until she developed preeclampsia at 22 weeks, when obstetrician/gynecologist Amber Savells, M.D., put her on bed rest.

“I knew if I could make it to 32 weeks, then she could be born at Baptist Health Paducah and the NICU could take care of her,” Williams said. “We just prayed and prayed. At the 31-week ultrasound, it was time to take the baby, and I was thankful we could stay home.”

Avery Peyton Williams was born on Jan. 31. She weighed 3 pounds and was 15 inches long.

“She was really small with immature lungs and an immature nervous system,” she said. “The nurses were fantastic in the NICU. We were so pleased with them. They were so thorough.”

Avery had to stay in the NICU for six weeks because she developed brachycardia, a slow heartbeat caused by acid reflux.

Neonatologist Edward O’Neill, M.D., said most babies are admitted to the NICU because of respiratory problems or problems related to their prematurity.

“Sometimes with premature, small-term babies, the problems are not clear to the naked eye,” Dr. O’Neill said. “The clearest benefit for these families and their babies, who once had to be transferred out of this region, is they now can stay close to home. Being transferred just adds unnecessary stress on the whole family.  As a father of four, I know how important a child’s life is, so working in the NICU is an exciting and rewarding experience."

Williams said having a sick newborn was trying, but the nearby care was a blessing. “We were able to drive to Paducah twice a day to see her,” she said. “It was the biggest blessing we could ask for.”

Williams said the NICU nurses spoiled Avery, who they nicknamed “Little Diva.” She is now a healthy 6-month-old.

Williams said she tells all expectant families she knows about the NICU.

“You never know what can happen, so I’m sending them all to Baptist Health Paducah,” she said. “It’s really needed in this area.”