Cairo's Story: Exceptional NICU Care Encourages a Family’s Resilience
Darlene and Cedaz Gibbs had not planned for their son, Cairo, to be born in San Antonio. After enduring multiple failed pregnancy attempts with professional intervention, they decided to relocate to Killeen, Texas, soon to be closer to their family, and return to the town where they both grew up. However, before this move, life had an unexpected journey in store.
To their surprise, Darlene and Cedaz were delighted to find out that Darlene was pregnant. Their journey with this pregnancy was filled with ups and downs, and ultimately, hope.
After returning from a trip, Darlene, who had just entered her third trimester, sensed that her blood pressure was high. She took the reading at home and reached out to her OB-GYN, who immediately directed her to the emergency room at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Westover Hills Hospital.
Transferred for Specialized Care
There, she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition that could put both Darlene and her baby at risk, especially considering she was only 28 weeks into her pregnancy. Because of the severity of her condition, she was transferred to CHRISTUS Children’s, which has a Level IV NICU—the highest level of specialized care available for critical and premature infants—in the event of early delivery.
"Everything happened all at once; it was a whirlwind,” Darlene recalled.
At CHRISTUS, Darlene was admitted to the Labor & Delivery unit, where the medical team put her on bedrest and provided round-the-clock monitoring. Their primary goal was to prolong the pregnancy for as long as possible, ensuring the best outcome for both mother and child.
A Premature Birth
Complicating matters, Darlene's husband had contracted COVID-19 and was recovering at home. Despite the medical team's best efforts, however, six days later, they determined that the safest course of action was to proceed with a C-section.
Fortunately, Darlene’s husband, Cedaz, had cleared the waiting period after his infection, allowing him to be present for his son’s birth, which took place on July 14, 2023.
Darlene had to wait to meet her newborn until the following day due to the medication she was on and the need for COVID testing. Her husband, too, could not immediately visit Cairo in the NICU, given the waiting period after his positive test.
Although this separation was emotionally challenging, the couple understood that these measures were essential for Cairo's safety and that of the other infants.
When Cairo was born, he was just 29 weeks and 1 day gestation, and he had to be intubated immediately because of respiratory distress, which is common for babies as premature as he was.
His primary physician, Dr. Sowmya Mohan, a neonatal-perinatal medicine specialist at CHRISTUS Children’s, was in the delivery room and overseeing his care every step of the way.
"I met with Dr. Mohan the next day, and she was so wonderful,” Darlene said. “She was very thorough and answered all my questions, taking her time to explain everything. When my husband was able to be there, she repeated everything for him, ensuring he had all the information first-hand."
Constant Ups and Downs
Because Cairo was born so prematurely, he had to stay in the NICU for highly specialized care until his organs and body developed enough that he could be cared for at home.
His biggest challenge was his lungs, he was intubated and extubated a few times. The team also conducted thorough examinations throughout Cairo’s time in the NICU, leaving no potential complications unaddressed.
“Dr. Mohan and the rest of the NICU team assured us that this was normal for NICU babies—that there were constant ups and downs,” Darlene said. “We were so thankful for all the expertise and support every step of the way.”
Cairo remained in the NICU for a total of 82 days, eventually being discharged slightly past his original due date. The Gibbs family was overjoyed to take him to their home in San Antonio, where they are now preparing for their planned move to Killeen.
"He's doing great now,” Darlene said. “He was discharged on 1/8th of a liter of oxygen, though I don't think he even needs that anymore. But with RSV season approaching, we decided it was better to be safe."
Having spent an extended time in the NICU, Darlene and her family had the opportunity to work closely with the entire NICU team, each of whom has left a lasting mark on the Gibbs family.
“We have been very impressed from the top down,” Darlene said. “Everybody was so friendly and helpful, and it seemed like they genuinely cared about his progress and kept us informed of every detail. They even coordinated appointments for us for when we got to Killeen to ensure there wouldn’t be any gaps in care. We really cannot say enough good things about the care we received there."
The NICU "Village"
For Dr. Mohan and the rest of the NICU team at CHRISTUS Children’s, it is an honor every day to care for patients like Cairo.
"Every day in the NICU, I have the opportunity to witness the incredible strength and resilience of premature and critically ill babies, as well as the courage of their families,” Dr. Mohan said. “Every baby is cared for by a highly trained and dedicated team of nurses, respiratory therapists, case managers, social workers, lactation specialists, and countless other members of our NICU village—it is truly a team effort to support every family and help every baby entrusted to our care. It is an honor and a privilege to be part of these families' lives through their NICU journey, and we don't ever take that responsibility for granted.”
To learn more about the Level IV NICU care available at CHRISTUS Children’s, visit CHRISTUS Children’s | NICU (christushealth.org).