Ariah’s Story: A Belated Valentine’s Day Homecoming
Ciara Chapoy already had three children, so she knew what to expect during pregnancy number four.
Or she thought she did.
At 22 weeks, though, her water broke. Ciara rushed to the hospital near their home in Pleasanton, TX just south of San Antonio where she was admitted.
“They needed to keep an eye on me and the baby,” said Ciara. “They didn’t want to send me home and have something happen.”
Doctors ran a series of tests, including ultrasounds every four hours for the next three weeks while she was in the hospital. They wanted to make sure the baby’s heartbeat was OK.
“The heart rate was just dropping and then it would come up and then fall,” Ciara said. The medical team couldn't get it stabilized.
Time for Delivery
Doctors told Ciara it was time to bring her baby into the world.
“I knew that was the best decision even though she would be born very premature,” she said. “It was scary because I knew it was a 50-50 chance. But if we kept her in, she would have no chance.”
On October 19, 2022, at just 25 weeks, Ariah Chapoy was born. One pound, nine ounces.
“She was just so fragile,” Ciara said. She only got to see Ariah for a moment before doctors and nurses whisked her away to be treated.
Multiple Life-threatening Diagnoses
Doctors quickly identified the life-threatening conditions the baby faced. Ariah’s lungs were significantly underdeveloped. She wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Her heart had a hole in it, a condition called atrial septal defect.
The care she needed required specialized equipment for preemies available at CHRISTUS Children’s. Within the first five hours of her life, Ariah was flown by medical helicopter to San Antonio’s CHRISTUS Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Doctors knew Ariah needed to be at the closest and highest level NICU in the region.
The level IV unit is equipped to provide the highest level of care for premature and critically ill newborns.
Ciara describes the next three days as a blur. It took her that long to get discharged so she could get to San Antonio to see her baby.
“It was scary. I needed to be with my baby,” said Ciara.
Worth the Wait
That was a moment she won’t ever forget. When she got to the CHRISTUS Children’s NICU, she was finally able to really see Ariah. So tiny. Hooked up to so many tubes and wires.
“The hardest part was not being able to touch her right away. I was just looking at her in the incubator,” Ciara said.
An Exhausting Routine for Five
So began the next phase of the Chapoy family’s journey.
Ciara started each day in Pleasanton by waking up early to get her three other children off to school. After dropping the kids off, Ciara drove an hour to San Antonio to be with Ariah. By mid-afternoon, she was back on the road to pick up the children from school in Pleasanton.
She made these roundtrips each day for the first 115 days of Ciara’s life. The routine was exhausting, but Ciara knew she had to be there for all four children.
A Long-Awaited Reunion
It would be three weeks before Ciara could hold Ariah due to her treatment in the NICU. Three weeks of longing for that first embrace. She described that moment as holding a miracle.
“I had a miracle in my arms. I was just so happy. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. I was scared to be holding something so fragile in my hands,” Ciara said.
CHRISTUS Children’s encourages skin-to-skin contact—also known as kangaroo care—between parents and newborn or premature babies. That bonding time was healing for both Ciara and Ariah.
“Being able to smell my scent, to hear my heartbeat. That comfort. You could feel the connection,” Ciara said.
Ariah spent her first holidays in the NICU. Her first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Doctors told the family that their greatest concern continued to be Ariah’s lungs. They just needed to develop.
“She was on some type of oxygen at all times,” said Ciara. “Her skin was so translucent like you could see through her skin.” They also gave her a round of acetaminophen to help heal the hole in her heart.
Slowly, Ariah began to improve.
Home Sweet Home
After four months she was no longer in need of supplemental oxygen. Finally, she went home.
Ciara will always remember the date: February 15th. A belated Valentine’s Day gift to Ciara and all of her children.
“It was their first time meeting their sister. There was a lot of joy and happiness in the home,” Ciara remembers fondly.
All four of her children were now under one roof and she was able to stay there with all of them. Her heart was full.
Ariah’s team of doctors at CHRISTUS Children’s included Assistant Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Dr. Pratik Parikh, pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Tarak Patel, pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Lina Marouf and pediatric cardiologist Dr. Monesha Gupta.
“I want to thank them. They were there 24/7 when I couldn’t be there,” Ciara said. “I’m very grateful and I thank God that there was such a great team of doctors and nurses that were able to come together for my daughter and every other baby there.”
Ariah is growing every day. Her lungs are strong. Her heart is whole. Her future is bright.
“She beat all odds,” Ciara said. Ariah is a survivor.
For more information about our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, visit our website: NICU | Highly-Specialized Neonatal Care | CHRISTUS Health.