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Aaliyah’s impossibly tiny chest rose and fell as she slept in her NICU isolette.

The neonatal intensive care team, moving in perfect unison, untangled tubes and wires, flipped switches, and tapped screens. On cue, Aaliyah’s mom, Fernanda, leaned over and gently cupped her hands beneath Aaliyah’s body and lifted her to her chest.

The buzzing and beeping of the busy Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford NICU disappeared into the background. As Fernanda and Aaliyah settled into a chair, the world seemed to slow down, just a bit.

For the first five months of Fernanda’s pregnancy, she attended regular prenatal appointments in her hometown of Salinas. There was little warning that something was wrong.

“It took us by surprise,” Fernanda recalls. “My doctor told me to watch for symptoms of possible complications: headaches, vision changes, and pain. And I didn’t feel anything.”

Then one day Fernanda’s blood pressure skyrocketed. Follow-up tests showed dangerous levels of protein in her urine, a sign her kidneys were failing. Things escalated quickly. Just 23 weeks into her pregnancy, Fernanda was diagnosed with preeclampsia—a potentially deadly complication—and transferred to Packard Children’s Hospital.

“I was scared,” Fernanda recalls. “Scared that she wouldn’t make it, or that something would happen to me.”

The Right Place

When Fernanda arrived at our hospital, the team leapt into action to keep her and Aaliyah safe. After just a few days, it was clear that delivering Aaliyah was best for mom and baby. So, on September 12, one day shy of 25 weeks’ gestation, Aaliyah arrived, classified as a “micro-preemie” and weighing just over one pound.

Thankfully, support from donors like you enables our NICU to provide expert care to Aaliyah and other babies just like her.

Home Away from Home

It is a two-hour drive from Fernanda and her husband Israel’s home to Packard Children’s. Your support of the Children’s Fund ensures every family in our hospital has access to social workers to help navigate daunting times.

“Our social worker, Rachel, was so helpful, getting us a room right after I left the hospital and then into the Ronald McDonald House,” says Fernanda. “We can talk to her about anything.”

Most hospitals do not have the ability to care for infants as tiny as Aaliyah; micro-preemies are extremely fragile. She faces chronic lung problems and thyroid issues. But Fernanda is proud to report that Aaliyah is getting stronger and growing every day. The care team celebrated when she passed the two-pound mark and loves the tiny girl’s personality.

“She shows the nurses exactly what she needs,” Fernanda says with a laugh. “She shows us when she’s angry, sad, or happy.”

Looking Forward

Fernanda and her husband have big hopes for their little girl, who is now 4 months old and weighs seven pounds. “I hope that she’s healthy and that her lungs heal,” Fernanda says. “I hope she has the chance to do things I never got to do when I was younger. I just want to give her opportunities that I never had.”

Thank you for giving Aaliyah and her family this chance to experience a world of hope and possibilities.

Want to Help More Babies Like Aaliyah?

Your gifts to the Children’s Fund ensure that families have access to extraordinary care and the potential for brighter futures. To bring hope and health to our tiniest patients, give today!


This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 Children’s Fund Update.