Malia spent nearly a year in the neonatal intensive care unit, facing one battle after another. She fought, and finally, she won, proving there’s nothing Malia can’t overcome.

Child Health | 4 months ago

Mighty Malia: Tiny but Tough

Malia spent nearly a year in the neonatal intensive care unit, facing one battle after another. She fought, and finally, she won, proving there’s nothing Malia can’t overcome.

For the 12th year in a row, Levine Children’s Hospital is named a Best Children’s Hospital by U.S. News & World Report. This year, we ranked in more specialties than ever – 7! Learn why this matters, or keep reading to see how our newborn intensive care makes a difference.


Malia spent nearly a year in the neonatal intensive care unit, facing one battle after another. She fought, and finally, she won, proving there’s nothing Malia can’t overcome.

Think babies aren’t tough? You haven’t met Malia.

Malia Waldo was born weighing less than 14 ounces, hardly more than a can of soup. She wasn’t expected to survive the delivery room. But she did.

The battle was far from won, and Malia spent the next 269 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Levine Children’s Hospital.

Fortunately, Malia was exactly where she needed to be. Karen Thompson, NP, one of Malia’s neonatal nurse practitioners, has seen NICUs all over the country and says none compare to Levine Children’s Hospital. Home to some of the most advanced newborn care, we have every pediatric service and specialty on deck – so babies like Malia can get all the care they need, right here.

With an expert care team, loving parents and a whole lot of might, Malia was ready for the fight of her life.

When her bones were fragile, she found her strength – with formula to help her grow. When her lungs weren’t working on their own, she beat the odds – with a breathing machine and trach to help them function. When she needed surgery at 3 weeks old, she pulled through – with a care team who refused to give up.

At less than a year old, Malia had faced more health complications than most adults – complications that affected everything from her eyes to her bones to her heart. She lost weight and was in and out of isolation for infections, including the worst type of pneumonia.

“Malia came out of a lot of situations many other kids wouldn’t have,” says Michelle Chiu, MD, Malia’s neonatologist at Levine Children’s. “She’s very resilient and can do whatever she wants to do.”

Malia spent nearly a year in the NICU. She fought and she fought. And finally, she won.

Nothing she can’t conquer

After all the sleepless nights, taking Malia home was one of the best days for Bida and Michael, her parents. But like many NICU graduates, she’s still recovering and needs extra help – and equipment – to keep her healthy.

“The struggles are real for these newborns,” says Thompson. “They have to learn to eat, breathe and sleep, and these changes don’t happen overnight.”

While most families leave the hospital with a car seat, diapers and receiving blanket, the Waldos had all of that – plus a feeding machine, breathing machine and oxygen tank.

Malia is the second smallest baby to graduate from Levine Children’s Hospital’s NICU. But if you didn’t know her story, you’d hardly guess everything she’s already been through and overcome. She doesn’t need help breathing anymore and hasn’t been hospitalized since she left – monumental for someone with so much home health equipment.

In many ways, Malia is quickly catching up to babies her age. She’s full of smiles, loves to clap and is almost walking. “Her progress is what keeps us going. She’s surviving and thriving, and that makes us want to keep working harder,” says Thompson.

A lot of Malia’s progress, explains Dr. Chiu, is thanks to her parents who stuck by her side. “She had a lot of odds to overcome, but her parents never gave up on her,” she says.

It’s a mutual admiration, and the Waldos credit not just the doctors, but the nurse practitioners, nurses, secretaries and all the staff at Levine Children’s Hospital for doing their best for Malia every time. Bida says Malia is thriving so well today because her care team prepared the family and made sure they were ready to go home. “They put us at ease and were with us through the highs and lows,” adds Michael.

Malia still struggles with feeding and fighting off sickness, and she’ll likely face challenges as she continues to grow. But no matter what, she has two parents and an entire hospital team who believe in her.

“She fought the toughest battle in the beginning of her life, so there’s nothing she can’t conquer now,” says Bida. “She’s a warrior. She’s a fighter. She’s strong. And she’s a princess.”

Still think babies aren’t tough? We didn’t think so.