Newswise – Noah Ordaz and Asher Tate were both born extremely early, with each baby arriving just 23 weeks into its mother’s pregnancy.
Each baby had its own medical complications. Born 1 pound and 2 ounces, Noah spent nearly nine months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital with chronic lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, breathing difficulties, a congenital heart defect, cerebral hemorrhage, two abdominal hernias , rib fractures and hypothyroidism. He also needed a feeding tube.
Meanwhile, Asher, who was born with a 10% survival rate, spent five months in the same NICU with chronic lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, an abdominal hernia, a potentially blinding eye condition, a blockage and infection of the small intestine that required surgical intervention. correction and a feeding tube.
After each child was discharged from the NICU—Noah in November 2020 and Asher in December 2020—both were monitored at the UT Physicians Pediatric Center Neonatal High Risk Clinic for their continued care.
The specialty clinic provides comprehensive care to infants discharged from the NICU, providing both routine general pediatric care and ongoing care for all complex medical needs of NICU graduates. Part of the prestigious Neonatal Research Network, it is one of only two clinics of its kind in Texas.
At the clinic, both Noah and Asher were transferred to the care of pediatrician Fatima Boricha, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston).
“When Noah and Asher came to me for their first visit after discharge from the NICU, they were only a few months old and they needed a lot of care and support as they were given oxygen, feeding tubes and multiple follow-ups with specialists. Our clinic is designed for children like Noah and Asher, and our goal is to provide exceptional care for medically complex babies and provide a medical home for this vulnerable population,” said Boricha. “Most of our patients are preterm infants born less than 27 weeks gestational age, but we also see other medically complex NICU graduates.”
Births are considered premature when a baby is born before 37 weeks gestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, babies less than 32 weeks pregnant have a particularly higher mortality and disability, with about 1 million children dying each year from complications of preterm birth, according to the World Health Organization.
Boricha and fellow physicians Tina Reddy, MD, and Janice John, PNP, who have provided care to NICU graduates for more than a decade, are well trained and able to manage feeding tubes, oxygen and other equipment and provide continuity of care and ongoing evaluation of development, behavior and growth.
Boricha said the clinic is proud to care for these babies, with caregivers and staff delighted to see their patients thrive and parents smile.
Noah’s mom, Lisa Ordaz, is definitely one of those parents. Her water broke 18 weeks into her pregnancy, and she spent five weeks in the hospital before giving birth to Noah on Leap Day, February 29, 2020.
“He’s one of those kids who comes in and says, ‘Hello world, I’m here,'” Ordaz said of her bouncing baby boy. “He’s cheerful, stubborn and hilarious, and he wants to be the center of attention.”
But despite all the troubles Noah went through at birth, Ordaz felt lost and turned to prayer. She felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders when Noah was admitted to the high-risk clinic, where he was followed by Boricha, his primary care physician; Maria Caldas-Vasquez, MD, his endocrinologist; Ricardo Mosquera, MD, his pulmonologist; and other specialists with UTHealth Houston as needs arise.
Today, Noah eats by mouth and weans off his oxygen tank. He also crawls and tries to walk and talk.
“We travel a two-hour drive to get to this clinic,” says Ordaz, who lives in Lufkin, Texas. “For moms going through the NICU, it’s so important to have a good support system. I don’t think I would have made it without my village behind me at Children’s Memorial Hermann. I have the feeling that the staff at the risk clinic has become another village for me.”
Asher’s mother, Tameka Tate, is also happy. Asher never cries when he goes to the clinic, Tate said, and he continues to grow healthy and stable. It has allowed Tate to see even more of her son’s bright personality.
“He’s just really goofy — he sleeps with his hand behind his head, and he likes to play and laugh,” Tate said. “He’s also very active and strong — he’s starting to pull himself up to the point where he can’t sleep in his crib because he wants to get up.”
In addition to Boricha, his primary care physician, Asher sees Mosquera for pulmonology at the UT Physicians High Risk Children’s Clinic, along with other specialists from UTHealth Houston.
Thanks to this team and Asher’s strong will, the 1-year-old is out of oxygen and slowly begins to eat by mouth.
“It’s all very exciting when you consider that a year ago they wouldn’t have thought he could move,” Tate said. “We call him our little hero. My baby is a blessing to many people.”