Anniston’s life started with seizures, strokes and surgeries. But today, she’s home and healthy – thanks to her brave parents, lots of prayers and award-winning neonatal care.

Child Health, News | 5 months ago

Healed, Healthy and Whole: Anniston’s NICU Journey

Anniston’s life started with seizures, strokes and surgeries. But today, she’s home and healthy – thanks to her brave parents, lots of prayers and award-winning neonatal care.

Twelve hours after Anniston Moorman was born, her mom, Raniesha, noticed twitching below her left eye. Then, in her left arm. Then, her left leg. 

Raniesha knew something wasn’t right and felt helpless as her newborn was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Atrium Health University City. The twitching Raniesha saw was seizures resulting from perinatal strokes. These are strokes that happen in the womb – often without any warning or explanation, which was the case for Anniston. 

The next time Raniesha saw her daughter, wrapped in wires and meshed between machines, she had a moment of pause. “I had a decision,” she recalls. “Either I was going to totally break down, or I was going to reach within myself for all the courage I had and try to cover her and comfort her as much as possible.”

Raniesha and her husband, Michael, chose courage.

They loved us, we loved them

At barely a day old, Anniston was transferred to Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital – the region’s primary destination for newborn intensive care and one of the best in the U.S. for neonatology. “They were so good from the start with communicating, which is really big for Raniesha and me,” says Michael. “When they transported her, I can’t thank the staff enough. It was so seamless. It made a sleepless night tolerable.”

One sleepless night turned into many sleepless weeks, as Anniston’s respiratory rate spiked, revealing a patent ductus arteriosus – or PDA, a rare heart defect unrelated to perinatal strokes. “The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that typically closes after a baby is born. For Anniston, it didn’t close, which is very rare for full-term babies,” explains Tricia Dias, MDone of Anniston’s neonatologists at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital.

By the time she was 6 weeks old, Anniston had undergone two surgeries to close the PDA and one to put a feeding tube in. She’d battled to breathe as fluid filled her lungs, nearly collapsing them, and endured countless uncomfortable scans. Yet as the days went on, she grew stronger, and the Moormans held on tightly to courage, prayer and their NICU care team, who became like family. “They loved us, we loved them,” Raniesha says, recalling the tightknit bonds they formed with the doctors and nurses Anniston saw the most.

Over the course of 80 days, Raniesha and Michael experienced many of Anniston’s firsts in the NICU, like her first bath and first smile. But they’ll forever remember December 1, 2020 – the day they first brought their baby girl home, at 10 weeks old. “After four visits in the NICU, five stays in the progressive unit, many days, many nurses, many doctors, and many tears later, our baby girl is home with us,” says Raniesha.

So much to be said

To thank their NICU care team, the Moormans have delivered letters and gifts and stay in touch with Anniston’s nurses. “There’s so much to be said to each one of them. Who they are and how they are matter equally. I am eternally grateful for them – their sensitivity, their sincere care, concern and love,” says Raniesha, who remembers watching the doctors and nurses care for each and every family in the NICU with the same level of compassion. 

It’s like Dr. Dias says: The patient isn’t just the baby – it’s the whole family. “We create such a bond with the patients and their families and are their advocates,” she adds.

In the NICU, Anniston’s parents created a mantra for her: healed, healthy and whole. And that’s exactly how she’s living her life. Now 8 months old, she's full of life and in a word: joyful. Anniston makes her parents laugh all day and is determined to roll over, though sometimes her feeding tube gets in the way. In fact, getting comfortable eating on her own is the last step in her recovery, and there have been no long-term effects of the strokes, seizures or surgeries. In some ways, Raniesha says, it’s like she never went through everything she did. 

“With such wonderful parents, Anniston has a lot going for her,” says Dr. Dias. “Babies are so resilient and can make outstanding recoveries. Especially with families like Anniston’s who are heavily involved. One day, I hope Anniston knows what kind of warriors her parents were throughout her whole hospital stay.”

There’s no doubt Anniston will know. Bravery's in her blood, after all. 

And on that day, when her parents chose courage, Anniston did, too.