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Why We Donate to the March of Dimes | Thomas’ NICU Journey

We want to share about why we’re donating to the March of Dimes this holiday season. Here’s our story…

March of Dimes: Sara Zarrella Photography's Charity in 2021. Our story with the March of Dimes and our son's hospital stay

This May, we welcomed our baby boy Thomas Sheally to the family in a whirlwind. He arrived on the morning of May 20th at Kent Hospital at 8.6 lbs and 21.5” long via a c-section (as planned) at exactly 8am. What no one expected was his diaphragmatic herniation. Simply put: his bowels were laying on his left lung which impacted his breathing. It was at that moment, we realized we knew what to name him – which had been a hard task for Steve and I.

We knew he’d continue moving to the beat of his own drum and navigating his own, unique path. Our family is proud to have named him after his two strong grandfathers – despite it not being a “S” name like his big sisters.  Almost immediately after he was born, Thomas was transferred to the NICU and hours later, I was sent to join him. It was a long eight hours before I got to see him and actually meet him. 

At just five days old, Thomas underwent a laprisopic surgery to correct his diaphragmatic herniation. The night before was the first time I was able to hold my son. It was an emotional moment for a lot of reasons – one of them being that I was being permitted to hold him only because he may not have survived the surgery. Only 60% of the babies with his condition survive, so it was a very scary six hours while he was in surgery. But, our little Thomas is a fighter. I’ll never forget the image of his surgery team around him following a successful operation as they told us our son would make it. Although it was hard to leave that hospital every day without my son, I knew that he was in good hands. It certainly didn’t make it easier, though. 

While Thomas was in his surgery, I worked on a rainbow mobile craft given to me from The March of Dimes. I have it hanging in his nursery and will always remember that long day while we waited for him to get our of surgery.

Leaving the NICU…

On June 18th, after a long four weeks in the NICU, Thomas came home. He left at 10:00am, which was ironically the same time he entered the unit. I remember thinking that leaving the unit was going to be pure joy. But, it was also filled with a little bit of a loss. Being in the NICU was part of Thomas’ journey. Many nurses and specialists became an important part of our lives.

Even now, l always look at Thomas’s window at the NICU when I drive by and remember our four long weeks there. I still feel the fear we felt when the first few were very touch and go. The night before we left the unit, I held my son with no wires or tubes connected to him. And that first morning I woke up at home with him crying in his crib. I didn’t take it for granted. It was only two weeks beforehand I couldn’t hear his cries because of the breathing tube. Hearing him cry was music to my ears (crazy to write that).

A moment can change your life…

It’s interesting how a moment like this can change your life. But that’s what life is: a bunch of moments and experiences that form who you are. I never thought I would be a parent posting about causes or movements that have touched my own life… but I am. Our entire family learned and grew by becoming a NICU family. I truly believe the medical team we worked with are angels. They’re the people you want on your team and in your life. We still have bimonthly visits with them and I’m friends with several of his nurses on social media. It’s wonderful to stay connected. Without our medical team, the four weeks Thomas stayed at the NICU would have been miserable and I’m still just so thankful for all them today. 

The March of Dimes

But, I know that not every family that goes through what we did finds joy on the other side. Many families suffer incredible losses as they go through moments like us. And that is not lost on me. I hold them in my heart every single day. I’m also committed to making a real difference in the world of other NICU families, too. That’s why Sara Zarrella Photography is proud to send 3% of our proceeds to the March of Dimes. Whether it’s financial support or moral support, the work that the March of Dimes does for other NICU families is a blessing. 

We want to thank them for their support and everything they do for all of us when it comes to raising awareness for NICU Families and providing the love, care, and help we all need. While we were in the hospital, the March of Dimes touched our lives with support and understanding – even something as simple as a craft to do while I waited for my son to come out of surgery was comforting. I want to continue those blessings for another family. ⠀⠀⠀

The Road Forward for Thomas 

It’s been a long road since Thomas came bursting into the world and into our hearts on May 20. We have loved watching him grow, thrive, and endure every challenge presented to him. When I look at images of our tiny boy, I’m immediately taken back to those days in the NICU ward and I’m just blown away with what’s changed. One day, I will tell Thomas about this journey – about the scars on his body. 

These scars we’re looking at are the reflection of the work it took to save his life.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

The scars are his battle wounds. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

These scars are a reflection of his journey.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

One day we will tell him, ‘Thomas, these scars are anything but imperfections. They are proof of your journey. Proof that from the moment you were born, you were a warrior, and they are you. Uniquely you. And we love every inch.’⠀⠀⠀

Thank you again to all of the NICU nurses, doctors, and fellow warriors as well as all of the family and friends who supported us through this journey. And thank you to every client who’s supported us – and continues to. Because of you, we can provide these donations to the March of Dimes and make a difference in the lives of so many others. ⠀

March of Dimes: Sara Zarrella Photography's Charity in 2021. Our story with the March of Dimes and our son's hospital stay