Living Well

Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month: When the NICU feels like home

Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month: When the NICU feels like home

This month, we are celebrating Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month by highlighting one of our superhero patients and his family who are experiencing a lengthy stay in the Children’s Hospital New Orleans NICU. We also want to recognize our extraordinary NICU team who strives to provide the best care possible for each infant.

Tatyana Alcantara is no stranger to the NICU at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. Her son, Jean Claude Berlin, was born on April 11, 2020 at just 27 weeks and weighing only 1 pound 9 ounces. Like many preterm babies, Jean Claude was born with PDA or Patent Ductus Arteriosus, which essentially means he had an artery channeling blood in the wrong direction. Following his birth at West Jefferson Medical Center, Jean Claude was transferred to the NICU at Children’s Hospital, where he’s been under constant care for the past four months of his life.

“Of course, this is extremely hard, but the doctors and nurses have been so kind. Jean Claude is my first child, and I would never have thought he would be born early and deal with these types of medical issues,” says Tatyana.

Dr. Kiran Mallula, the director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Children’s Hospital, performed a minimal invasive procedure on Jean Claude on June 22. Utilizing a new technology called the Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder, Dr. Mallula was able to close the extra blood vessel. “The device was approved this past year and is a wonderful tool to use when it comes caring for premature infants in NICU’s across the country who are battling with the same medical issue,” says Dr. Mallula.

Though his heart is healing, Jean Claude and his care team have had to overcome additional challenges that come with this heart condition including poor feeding, slow weight gain, and respiratory issues that keep him on a ventilator in the NICU.

As a first-time mother, Tatyana says she never leaves sweet Jean Calude’s side. She spends most of the day with her son, and then returns at night with his father to spend quality time as a family. While Jean Claude may be fighting through his heart condition and lung disease, she says his personality stays strong and vibrant.

“He is very feisty,” Tatyana explains. “He absolutely loves getting his hair played with and my boy loves music.” Though Tatyana is lighthearted in sharing her son’s admirable traits, she says it’s still difficult to stay positive during this unknown journey. “My advice to other NICU moms is don’t hold your emotions in. Talk to somebody. It does get hard. Cry and let it out knowing you are just human.”

Tatyana says the silver lining is seeing Jean Claude fight and grow stronger. He’s now almost 6 months old and weighs a healthy 7 pounds 9 ounces. She also says the Children’s Hospital staff makes this long stay feel like home. She mentioned one nurse who makes a difference by always bringing a little extra comfort when caring for Jean Claude.

“Her name is Kenya, and she shows us so much kindness and makes us feel comfortable. She truly is family when she’s here.”

A home away from home always needs a little bit of family, and that’s what we hope to provide in the NICU at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, in addition to the highest level of care within the state of Louisiana, as a level 4 NICU.

Learn more about our NICU.