A Marine, a Mom - and a Miracle
Months before she was to deliver her first baby, Erminia (Mia) Accettullo and her U.S. Marine Corps husband Chris, an E4 corporal, had worked excitedly to coordinate Chris’s leave out of his post in Afghanistan with the baby’s arrival date. It wouldbe their first child, and the young couple, residents of Shelton, were in touch whenever possible.
Confident of his wife’s capable preparations and good prenatal care, Chris continued his duties as squad leader on patrols that limited contact with home for weeks at a time.
But back in Shelton, Mia was beginning to worry. “I was getting close to term and had begun to develop extremely bad headaches,” she said.
“I had blurred vision, was seeing white spots, and had rapid weight gain. Also, my feet were swelling badly.”
The doctor at the hospital where she was to deliver diagnosed her headaches as migraines, which she’d never had. “I researched and found that my symptoms were classic for preeclampsia,” Mia said. “But I was told there was no way I had it.”
A few days later, Mia spoke to a close family friend who is a nurse at St. Vincent’s Family Birthing Center (FBC). “I explained my symptoms and she suggested I come into St. Vincent’s for a second opinion,” she said.
A Second Opinion
“It was clear when she came to us that Mia was very ill,” said Dr. Angela Campbell, the OB/GYN physician at St. Vincent’s whom Mia then requested to take over her care. “She had severe preeclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and abnormal functioning of other vital organs. When a mother has elevated blood pressures, fetal growth and wellbeing can be negatively affected.”
It had only been a week since being told that she didn’t have preeclampsia, but Mia’s condition was critical. Her pregnancy was barely at 30 weeks. Admitted to St. Vincent’s that Thursday, however, she felt safe under the care of an experienced physician and the FBC team. Her thoughts now were with Chris. Would he miss the first weeks of their baby’s life?
The young father-to-be was leading his troops back in Afghanistan, unaware of the situation. “Then I had a call on the radio from Medivac,” he recalled.
“They were coming to hel-o (helicopter) me out of there. I didn’t really know why and didn’t want to leave my Marines.
Mia was soon given magnesium sulfate because preeclampsia can progress to eclampsia, which is when seizures occur. “Magnesium sulfate prevents the onset of seizures,” Dr. Campbell said. “In addition, it reduces the chance a premature infant will develop cerebral palsy and helps decrease many of the complications related to premature birth that affect the brain. So it helps both mother and baby. Mia also received medication to control her blood pressure, and steroid injections to accelerate development of the baby’s lungs.”
The newborn intensive care unit (NICU) was ready to receive Mia’s baby into its calming, warm atmosphere. With state-of-the-art technology and equipment, and a highly skilled staff of pediatric nurses and neonatology physicians, St. Vincent’s NICU is one of the few hospitals in the state able to provide 24/7 critical care for infants born as prematurely as 30 weeks.
Thousands of miles away, on the helicopter back to Command, Chris was handed a folder with a red cross on it.
“That red cross was worrisome,” he said. “But the information was thorough and I knew my wife was strong.”
Still, he was unaware that Mia’s rising blood pressure and contractions had meant the delivery by emergency C-section was imminent. “Then my sergeant said I had 12 hours to get out of country,” he said. “And when we landed and I called my mother, she didn’t waste words. She told me, ‘You need to be coming home.’”
Adriana Arrives Early!
Tiny but beautiful Adriana Rose Accettullo made her auspicious first public appearance at 11: 53am on the Monday after Mia’s admission to St. Vincent’s. Weighing in at 3 pounds, 2 ounces, she was, in the words of Dr. Campbell, “Very, very small but quite vigorous.”
Meanwhile, Chris’s journey across the world continued to involve several planes, hours of waiting, plowing through snow in Germany, and more waiting. But he forged on, making it to Washington, D.C., in another 24 hours. “The first thing I did was call the hospital,” he said. “My mom answered and handed the phone to Mia. She told me I was a father, and that she was fine. I was so overwhelmed and happy I could barely speak.”
A proud Mia reported that their little girl was doing well in the NICU. Soon afterward, she was maintaining her body temperature and on target to be home at what would have been Mom’s 35-week pregnancy point. She was healthy and ready to start life. “I was fortunate to have gotten to St. Vincent’s and its FBC,” Mia said. “I’m glad I listened to my own body and didn’t just accept what I was being told. And I’m so proud of my husband, the way he traveled so many miles carrying all his Marine gear to get home to our baby and me.”
For more information on St. Vincent's birthing services, please call 203-576-5310 or visit stvincents.org/familybirthing
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