Anna’s pregnancy was completely normal. “I had no indication anything was wrong until I found myself having to pull over on the side of the road when my contractions started unexpectedly at about the 24-week mark,” she says. “I was rushed to the hospital and Gabe appeared about 90 minutes later, weighing only 1 ½ pounds.” The complications from his birth were life-threatening: bleeding in the brain, underdeveloped lungs, a hole in the heart, and a bowel perforation.
Gabe was only three days old when his doctors approached Anna and her husband, Efiz. “They told us that Gabe's prognosis was uncertain. If he survived, there was no way to know how severe his condition might be. They wanted to know what measures, if any, we as his parents wanted them to take to keep him alive.”
After seven months in the hospital, Gabe came home. “As wonderful as that was, it was also overwhelming in a whole new way,” Anna says. “He was still on oxygen when he came home, as well as a NG (nasogastric) tube for feeding. I had to quit my job in order to care for him and his brother (7 year old Ben). Efiz had to go back to work. We both struggled with stress and depression.”
Their introduction to Children's Therapy Center made a big difference. “Our therapists didn’t just help Gabe, they helped me, too. There were so many days when I’d be overwhelmed dealing with medical stuff and they’d ask, ‘How are you doing?’ and I would just say, ‘I’m not.’” They listened and gave me support – it was incredible. They helped me see little milestones and reminded me we were getting somewhere.”
In addition to helping Gabe learn to walk, eat, and talk, his therapists included Gabe’s brother, Ben, in therapy. “Ben was a big motivator. One day, when he and I stepped out of the room, Gabe just walked after us – across the room, out the door, and down the hallway! My heart was too full to say anything. I could only look at his therapist as we both blinked back tears and tried to not disrupt the magic of the moment.”