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Dwayne III with his mom Oreal and dad Dwayne Jr

Baby's Family Celebrates NICU Discharge on His 1st Birthday

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During pregnancy, you plan for many things: what to pack in your bag, getting your baby's nursery together and, most importantly, your birth plan. One thing that is rarely part of a parent's birth plan is your baby having to spend time in the NICU after being born. Oreal Joseph and her fiancé Dwayne White Jr. experienced the unexpected when their son Dwayne White III was born three months early at Ochsner Baptist on March 16, 2020, when Oreal was only 24 weeks into her pregnancy.

When Oreal went in for her regular appointment during her second trimester, her blood pressure levels were high. Her doctor determined it was best if she got further testing at the Ochsner Baptist's hospital, where they found her platelet levels were dropping and her blood pressure was high, something that usually does not happen until later in pregnancy. Oreal says what happened next was a whirlwind. "A doctor from NICU came to see us to discuss all of the possible complications that could come with having an early-term preemie. Everything she said after NICU sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher. My heart was racing. I was in panic mode. All I wanted was a healthy baby."

At 1:40 p.m. on March 16, 2020, Oreal gave birth to her son Dwayne III via cesarean section. Oreal says, "I don't remember hearing him cry, and then next I was waking up in recovery. He wasn't there. My fiancé explained they had taken him up to the NICU immediately, but he was breathing fine, and everything would be OK. Nothing could have prepared me to wake up without my newborn there to hold or for the many things that came after."

Now, a year later, Dwayne III has been in the NICU for 379 days, growing, learning and overcoming many obstacles that Oreal hopes no other child or parent has to experience. While this isn't a journey Oreal and Dwayne Jr. expected, Oreal says she is grateful for the moments spent with Dwayne III and for the team's support at Ochsner Baptist.

"Some days were terrifying, some were joyous, but through it all, I had the unwavering support, compassion and understanding of many fabulous nurses, doctors and specialists. It feels strange to say that some of the happiest moments of my life were spent within a NICU, but it's true. His first bath, first breastfeeding, first Mother's Day were all spent in the NICU. Our journey was often very scary and difficult, but the reward far outweighed the work. Spending time in NICU rather than at home with your baby can be hard and challenging. The highest highs and low lows, but it's a time in my life that I wouldn't change and a time that shaped who I am today."

Dwayne III also just hit a significant milestone – his first birthday! And while no parent expects to spend their child's first birthday in the NICU, Oreal, Dwayne Jr. and the Baptist team were sure to celebrate this monumental moment! Oreal says, "Never didn't I think I would be celebrating Dwayne's first birthday In the NICU. Baptist NICU team made Dwayne's first birthday memorable, and I am so grateful for the love, support, and kindness. My life is so blessed with some of the most amazing people. Thank you all for being part of my journey."

And what might be even more exciting than a birthday celebration is the chance for Dwayne III to go home with his mom and dad! Dwayne III was just discharged from the NICU after defying all obstacles. Oreal says she and Dwayne Jr. "are filled with so many emotions - happy, excited, scared, nervous, most of all, overjoyed."

Dwayne III had a large care team at Ochsner Baptist, including pediatricians, nurses, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech therapists, and Oreal shares how thankful she is for the team. "Thanks to the entire NICU team. Thank you for all you've done. You'll be remembered long after we've gone home."

Join us in congratulating Dwayne III, Oreal and Dwayne Jr. on being discharged and going home!

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