When Joyanna went to the doctor to find out whether she was having a boy or a girl, the last thing she expected was to hear that her child was in danger. At twenty weeks, Joyanna was dilating, so when her water broke three weeks later, she had to make a life or death decision: give birth to a baby that had zero chance of survival or continue the pregnancy and risk infection and death. She chose the latter. When she arrived at Cooper University Hospital, she was on bedrest for a week before delivering Kent, who was born weighing 1 pound, 3.2 ounces and fitting into his father’s hand. Doctors told Joy that Kent’s survival would be dependent on them being able to place a breathing tube into such a tiny, premature airway. “I felt peace when I delivered him. It was hard but I didn’t cry until I heard that they were able to put the breathing tube down his throat. After that moment, I knew there was hope.”
Joy spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s at the House, an experience that she says was humbling. “I never realized who was at the House. Seeing the kids, hearing their stories – it put things into perspective. I knew I was not the only one and that I was not alone. I made so many friends.” The day before Valentine’s Day, she received the best gift she could have ever asked for: discharge papers allowing her to take Kent home. After 101 days in the NICU, 101 days of walking the short distance from RMH’s back door to his crib at Cooper Hospital, 101 nights of singing him to sleep and being by his side for every test, Joy was able to wrap her arms around Kent and take him home.
Now that Joyanna is back home in Egg Harbor Township, she is filled with a sense of relief and wonder – as a first-time mom, she never expected so many challenges in caring for her child, but she has risen to the occasion, on the shoulders of many who have cared for her and given her support. “Kent had a slim chance of making it, but I took it one day at a time. I remember staying up till 3am, talking to other families about my day. It was support when my husband couldn’t be there because he was working.” She remembers the meals offered at the House with a special sense of gratitude because she was able to focus on “being with him all day and still be able to walk into the house and enjoy a hot meal.” “There was not one day I missed being with him. He heard my voice, he felt my touch. After his first 17 days of life, I was able to hold him, and I have had him in my arms ever since then. If I didn’t have the house, I wouldn’t have made those memories with him.”