Story written by Erin Elam, Lorelei’s Mom
Lorelei Elam was born on May 17th, 2016 at just 23 weeks gestation. She weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces at birth and was 12 1/4 inches long. Lorelei’s due date was Sept 5th, 2016 but she was born early due to a Listeria infection.
On the morning of May 16th, I was rushed to Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center in excruciating pain and in labor. Upon arriving, I was 7 cm dilated and left with very little hope for my sweet Lorelei. I refused to give up. The doctors at St. Francis knew they had to get us somewhere safe where doctors could try to help Lorelei. Unfortunately, St. Francis did not have the means to help a 23 week born child. St. Mary’s Hospital, located on the other side of the city of Richmond, did.
I remember not wanting to be 40 minutes from home but knew I had to do whatever it took to save my unborn daughter. I arrived by ambulance at St. Mary’s where I was greeted by so many people who were eager to save her and to make my stay as easy as possible. They did everything they could to keep me from delivering but my body said no.
As Lorelei was born, breech and vaginally, a team of NICU nurses swarmed in to take her as fast as they could to get help. I felt so helpless, sad, and overwhelmed. It was the worst day of my life and not at all how I pictured my first born child to come into this world. It took 8 weeks to receive the lab report of my placenta to find out that Listeria had caused her early birth.
Each hour that went by felt like days. After 72 hours, I was being released from the hospital without my baby; but, my baby was still alive. I didn’t know how I would manage driving 40 minutes back and forth each day, maintain my home, take care of my animals and even go to work. It was way too much to bear. My husband is constantly away from home for work, so although completely supportive, he was limited on what he could do. We had to have income. My mom and mother-in-law were quick to take care of my pets, and work told me to take the rest of the year off. Things were starting to look up but there was a small problem. I still had to drive 40 minutes, or an hour with traffic, to get from my home to the hospital each day. I needed to rest, eat, do schoolwork but most importantly be there with my daughter. The hospital’s NICU wasn’t designed for me to sleep or eat in, let alone to do schoolwork in.
After a week of driving back and forth, one of our NICU nurses came up to me and asked if I knew about Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond. I had heard of it, but wasn’t really sure what it was. She explained all of the wonderful benefits of their programs for someone going through things similar to myself- some going through much worse. She told me that St. Mary’s had two Ronald McDonald Family Rooms right there in the hospital where I could stay overnight at no cost. These accommodations meant I was able to visit my daughter nonstop, rest, shower, take breaks and even do schoolwork with the laptop they provided! Right across from my room, RMHC Richmond had a family kitchen filled with drinks, sandwiches, snacks, coffee – you name it! I had never felt SO BLESSED in my entire life. Everything I needed was right here, right where my daughter was. I didn’t have to leave her again to shower or eat, or to even find WiFi to submit a school paper. I didn’t have to sleep in my car or drive 40 minutes home, simply because I needed to change clothes. I was able to save gas and food costs, and even able to maintain an A average all because of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond.
Lorelei was diagnosed with grade 3/4 brain bleeds, Chronic Lung Disease, had heart surgery, ROP 2, staphylococcus, MRSA, Meningitis and NEC disease twice. She was given a 10% chance of survival and nearly passed away a handful of times. She had so many blood transfusions that I lost count and more eye surgeries than expected. After 128 days in the NICU, Lorelei was able to come home. She came home September 20th, 2016 on oxygen and with a feeding tube at just 7lbs, and almost 5 months old.
Without RMHC Richmond, I would’ve easily had to return to work to make up for the cost of gas, food, etc. I’m forever grateful, that because of volunteers and people that donate, I was able to not only spend my daughter’s intense NICU nights and days with her but I could now spend time with her at home.
I knew immediately that I wanted to help give back. I decided to add RMHC Richmond to my Amazon account for funds to be donated from certain purchases, and to collect pop tops! Lorelei has since joined in the fun with me! We have been collecting them since Lorelei’s birth and turn them in every year. This year we turned in almost 20lbs of tops thanks to friends and family who also save them for us! volunteers and people that donate, I was able to not only spend my daughter’s intense NICU nights and days with her but I could now spend time with her at home.
Now 3, and with mild cerebral palsy to include low vision and other eye issues, Lorelei is just like every other child. She’s loving, fun, and fearless! She has just been developmentally assessed and is right where she’s supposed to be with no delays! Lorelei loves to swim and cook and is potty-trained. She will attend preschool this fall and looks forward to learning and meeting new friends.
RMHC Richmond changed my life and Lorelei and I will forever be supporters. I look forward to volunteering with her someday. In the meantime, we will keep on asking for and collecting those pop tops! RMHC Richmond will forever be stamped on our hearts.