Adrienne Perkins could hardly contain her joy.
Walking around in the late-summer sunshine in front of Rockcastle Regional Hospital and Respiratory Care Center, eyeing her grandson Ashton as he soaked in the last day of adulation from his caregivers, Perkins feigned a conspiracy.
“It's a set-up,” she said, laughing. “They’ve spoiled him, and now I’m going to be in trouble.”
But she’d been looking for this trouble for a while.
Ashton was discharged in August after nearly a year as patient. Born prematurely at 28 weeks, his chronic respiratory failure made him dependent on a mechanical ventilator. As he grew and developed, he gradually was able to wean and breathe on his own. On August 14, 2017, at 16 months of age, he went home.
Ashton's case is not uncommon at Rockcastle Regional. At any given time, three to five babies reside in the facility.
And although Rockcastle Regional is known for its high level of quality and compassionate care for all of its patients, the little ones tend to create a certain excitement among staff.
Do they get excited when they know a new baby is arriving?
“Oh yes,” said Sara Robinson, RN. “They make it easier to come to work. It’s just exciting to see them grow and develop, and to know you’ve had a hand in that.”
Adrienne, who lives in Lexington, at first did not want Ashton to go to Rockcastle, an hour or so south of her home. “But then we met with the nurses and staff, and I saw how much they cared, and I learned more about the care he would receive.”
Now, both she and the staff are glad she made the choice. While Ashton was healing, he captivated those around him.
“This little guy has a personality that fills the room,” said unit coordinator Beverly Lopes, RN. “He’s never met a stranger, and seems never to be unhappy.”
“He just lights up a room,” Robinson said, “and loves being the center of attention.”
So maybe they were in fact spoiling Ashton, but something else was going on too. They were as determined as he and his family were to get him well.
“The nurses, social workers, therapists, the entire team – their tenacity to get him well was wonderful,” Adrienne said. “They taught him to breathe on his own. They made him well. Now it’s like nothing was ever wrong with him.”
As happy as they are for Ashton, “goodbye” is the hardest part for staff.
“It’s always real hard when they leave,” Robinson said.
But enduring a rough beginning of life, she thinks, reveals a resiliency in these kids that makes her optimistic about their future.
“We know they’re going have a better life ahead of them. They’re definitely fighters, and they can make it through anything.”
With good fortune, they’ll go on to cause the best kinds of trouble.
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