Fifteen years ago, after Thanksgiving dinner, Jennifer Bost — then six months pregnant — became violently ill. Her OB-GYN thought it might be heartburn or problems related to weight gain.
The pain was debilitating, and it lasted for a week. Then, one night at 2 a.m., Jennifer had enough. She asked her husband to take her to the local hospital’s emergency room. The doctors promptly discovered that she had preeclampsia; her lipids were elevated, and her liver was shutting down. Staff called an ambulance and sent Jennifer to UW Medical Center, which provides advanced care for high-risk pregnancies.
Several days later, Jennifer gave birth via emergency C-section to her first child. Emma was 28 weeks old — 11 weeks ahead of schedule and, at 2 pounds, 2 oz., frail and underdeveloped.
“We didn’t have anything at home. No crib, no baby clothes. We thought we had more time,” says Jennifer. “To have your birth plan change on you is shocking.”
Hope when needed
Over the next six weeks, Jennifer recovered at home while Emma remained in UW Medical Center’s Level IV neonatal intensive care unit. Every evening, Jennifer and her husband, Ian, would drive to the NICU to hold Emma. It was a difficult time, but one nurse in particular — Maureen — helped them through it with some welcome levity.
“She was really supportive, kind and patient. And she was funny,” says Jennifer. “She would crack jokes and lighten the mood. Ian and I had a hard time doing that ourselves.”
Jennifer feels a deep sense of gratitude for everyone at the NICU. “The network of people needed to help babies survive is amazing, and these doctors and nurses work so hard,” says Jennifer. “The staff at UWMC saved our lives, and we will forever be in their debt.”
A memorable teddy bear
Jennifer says she will never forget the evening they walked into the NICU and found a small teddy bear on Emma’s incubator. A teenager — a former NICU baby himself — had dropped off a bear for each little patient.
“It was a good reminder that these tiny, premature babies grow up, and they can catch up with everyone else,” says Jennifer.
Emma didn’t forget the bear, either. When her mother asked what she wanted to do for her 15th birthday, she had a very specific answer. And so, in early December 2019, the Bost family found themselves back in the UW Medical Center NICU with four giant boxes of stuffed animals. They handed out the toys and talked to parents.
“I know it’s probably stressful when your child is born really early. I hope these stuffed animals make them happy and give them some hope,” says Emma.
Remembering how Emma’s bear made her feel less alone 15 years ago, Jennifer reflects on the power of giving back. “It’s a good reminder that the world is connected. That there’s a community,” Jennifer says.