A NICU Christmas: Hilo family spends holiday with baby in neonatal intensive care unit

Local News

Christmas is just days away, and many are flying home to spend the day with family.

And then there are some families who are spending the holidays at the hospital.

For parents, it’s hard enough to have their infant in the NICU, and especially harder during the holidays.

Dawn Namahoe-Sidman lives in Hilo on the Big Island, but has spent the past few weeks on Oahu.

Her baby was born prematurely on Thanksgiving, a day that started like normal.

“I actually had a prime rib in the oven!” said Sidman.

Then the unexpected happened.

“I had a major gush happen. And I was like, ‘Oh this does not seem right. This doesn’t feel right,” recalled Sidman.

It was her “bun in the oven.” The first-time mother’s water broke.

She was only 27 weeks pregnant. Mothers typically deliver at 40 weeks, or 9 months.

Sidman was flown to Kapiolani Medical Center, the only maternity and newborn specialty hospital in the state.

“I was fearing the worst. I could lose him. Obviously you think of the worst case scenario,” said Sidman.

Axyl was born 3 months premature, weighing only 2 pounds 9 ounces. Sidman briefly held her newborn’s hand before nurses whisked Axyl away.

“The perfect feeling. I finally felt like a mother. Never knew the feeling but definitely a moment I will always remember,” she said.

An unconventional start to motherhood, it’s been 3 weeks since Axyl was admitted into the newborn intensive care unit.

About 6,000 babies are born at Kapiolani Medical Center every year. One thousand are admitted to the NICU. Many of those infants are premature.

“It really is a matter of safety. Are babies safe to stay in the nursery? We try not to separate families if we don’t need to. Any time we need to monitor babies closely they come over here to us so we can take care of them here,” said neonatologist Cherilyn Yee.

Since she lives in Hilo, Sidman has been staying at the Ronald McDonald house to be at the hospital for Axyl. Her husband Michael flies in every other weekend.

Her family won’t be home for Christmas.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s definitely been a struggle to be basically ripped away from your home at a moment’s notice,” she admitted.

But she is grateful for the holiday spirit and aloha shown by hospital staff and the Ronald McDonald house.

“Christmas is the time of year I enjoy the most. But, I can consider him my gift. You know? He just wanted to come out early and spend the holidays with us,” she said.

Sidman will celebrate Christmas on February 19 – Axyl’s original due date.

She hopes he’ll be home in Hilo by then.

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